T.J. Castronova, director, and playwright Joni Ravenna bring to the stage an exquisite production, "Beethoven and Misfortune Cookies." In the playbill, Kabin Thomas, upon whom the play is based, states, "We are all teachers and students; Music is life and life is music." Ernest Harden Jr. (The Jeffersons; White Men Can't Jump) brings the character of this tortured, fractured, quite controversial music appreciation professor from the University of Arkansas, to vivid life. The first thing he states to his class each term, is "if you object to my cursing, you can get up and leave." The set is simple on the surface, yet the accompanying music (classical Beethoven faves, of course) is brilliant, and the depth of character is phenomenal.
What seems like just an ordinary day in the first class of a college musicology course in rural America, becomes an expository revelation of a tortured soul, in the guise of Ernest Harden Jr. as Kabin Thomas, a true to life figure. He magnificently carries the show 'solo;' one of the minor but noticeable feats performed by this great actor is sweating on cue, as opposed to crying on cue. His perspiration symbolizes the pouring out of his blood, sweat, and tears, his essence, his soul, which is what this play is all about. His passion and love of teaching is balanced by the nightmare of the life he has led, growing up in a highly dysfunctional family, not unlike the prodigy Beethoven himself, or Billie Holiday, Lady Day, the singer of the hauntingly melodic 'Strange Fruits.'
The title, "Beethoven and Misfortune Cookies" is quite telling. This play is about a music professor who lives and loves music, jazz, soul, classical; yet throughout his life was told he is 'a cancer on society.' A good portion of the play takes place on a psychiatrist's couch. The invisible 'Angela' is his confidante. One of the best, most profoundly cultural shows offered to Los Angeles theatregoers this season.
Through Sept. 15th
Met Theatre, Great Scott Theatre 1089 N Oxford Ave
Reservations: 323 960-5773 www.plays411.com/beethoven
Saturdays 8PM; Sun. 3PM