Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beethoven Blatz

On April 12, 2011 me and my fellow classmates saw Armin Wiebe's play, The Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven Blatz at the Rachel Browne theater in the Exchange District. The play is about a Mennonite couple, Susch and Obrum Kehler living on the prairies. After two years of living together and knocking boots in perfectly appropriate wedded bliss, Susch is disappointed she is not with child. There is also a Russian musician, Blatz, that is introduced into the play when Obrum brings home a broken piano and hires Blatz to fix it. Blatz, with no where else to go as he is a refugee from Russia stays with the couple in their tiny home. After the play the audience had a chance to have a talk back with Wiebe and Wiebe came to Red River college later in the week to speak with us about the play.

The play was described as a comedy in the Winnipeg Free Press, which was somewhat true. There was an awkward sex scene, which produced uncomfortable laughter and an embarrassing situation where Obrum must wear a dress to prevent irritation from poison ivy. As Obrum changed, he strategically hid behind props, which I found one of the most endearing and clever scenes of the play. Other than those two scenes, I didn't find the play overly humorous.

Many students felt and mentioned at the seminar we had with Wiebe on April 14 that Blatz was the comic relief in the play. I however disagree. I did not think his character was likable or humourous. I felt that his awareness of reality was inconsistent. He wasn't aware of his sexual encounter with Susch, as Wiebe mentioned in the seminar, but was aware that he could be the baby Susch has later in the play. I also felt that Blatz was unlikable because I personally did not connect with him. I had compassion for him as it is alluded to in the play that he has lost his lover, but I found his speech hard to follow as many of his words were mixed with German phrases. Wiebe said that he took a risk that people may not understand and be alienated by the low-german in the play, and I guess I was one of the people he was speaking about. I also did not like him because he felt no remorse for sleeping with the wife of the very man who is putting him up and allowing him a place of refuge. Wiebe also said in the seminar that Blatz is so far gone mentally that he would not feel remorse for cheating with Susch.

I did however like the fact that in the end, all the characters got what they desired, although maybe not in the process which they would have preferred. I think it was a good comment on how life does not always go the way you want, and that things are not black and white, right or wrong, but shades of grey and circumstantial.

Ambiguity was also a large theme in the play. It is unsure who the father of Susch's baby is, and if it was even possible for Blatz to have impregnated Susch. I think this frustrated or intrigued some students based on the questions asked at the talk back after the play and the seminar with Wiebe. As an English major in university, I was not bothered by inconclusiveness as it is a large theme in many pieces I studied in university.

Overall, the actors were fantastic. Wiebe said in the talk back after the play that they studied Mennonite communities to get the accents down. This made me appreciate the time and effort the actors put into the production.


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