One Discordant Violin
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Theater review by Raven Snook
One Discordant Violin tries to dramatize how art can heal and haunt us. A middle-aged man, portrayed by playwright Anthony Black—who also codirected the show and designed its set—recalls a visit to Washington, D.C. in 2001 when, as a youthful aspiring writer, he happened upon a group of Vietnam vets performing classical music in a crumbling theater. An unfinished work by one of the former soldiers blindsides the narrator with its imperfect beauty and inspires him to talk with the composer. But like many creative heroes, the maestro doesn't turn out to be as expected.
Based on Yann Martel’s short story with a long title, “The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton,” this overwritten monologue explores well-worn themes: Art can be life-changing, genius isn't always recognized, selling out sucks. Yet the production's design and soul-stirring original score manage to drive that first message home in an evocative way. The wondrous violinist and vocalist Jacques Mindreau, who cowrote the music with sound designer Aaron Collier, performs behind foggy glass; ghostly lighting by Nick Bottomley and Anna Shepard make him seem like a memory come to life. As Mindreau plays on our heartstrings with his bow, the play’s points about the power of art transform from rambling intellectual argument into emotional epiphany. It's too bad the script doesn’t let the music do more of the talking.
59E59 Theaters (Off Broadway). By Anthony Black. Directed by Black and Ann-Marie Kerr. With Black and Jacques Mindreau. Running time: 1hr 10mins. No intermission.