Van Gogh’s Ear – a Musical Journey

 

(L) Chad Johnson (R) Carter Hudson

 

 

By Sandi Durell

 

 

It would be better to begin with the fact that this production is part of the Ensemble for the Romantic Century, written by Eve Wolf and directed by Donald T. Sanders, so that first and foremost is the attention to the classical music of the string quartet and piano (mostly clad in long white robes) that plays throughout the two acts utilizing historical subject matter that blends and highlights the aesthetic. And so, this season’s opening production is an ode to the exquisite paintings but minimal insights into the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

Playing the role of Vincent is tall and thin Carter Hudson (FX – Snowfall), who delivers depressive monologues that are many times delusional, his mind clouded by hallucinations as he portrays Vincent as if in a dream and with a continual fever attempting to find the color combinations he seeks in order to paint the beauty he sees. The fragility of his tormented psyche is ever present as he speaks of how worthless his paintings are. The dramatic rendering of cutting off his ear is noted.

In the background, silent, is his brother Theo (the wonderful voiced tenor Chad Johnson) who supplies him with the money he needs to survive, barely, as they correspond by letter giving Vincent the voice to truthfully admit his madness. Theo’s replies are sung operetta style (with supertitles to translate). All the while various Debussy, Faure and Chausson pieces are played to punctuate and carry forth the spoken words.

Mezzo-soprano Renee Tatum takes on the role of a prostitute (whom Vincent visits) as well as Johanna van Gogh-Bonger (Theo’s wife), bringing her beautiful voice to the mix.

Carter Hudson, Renee Tatum

 

There is no dialogue between the actors. The storyline progresses as Vincent suffers more delusional episodes winding up in a psychiatric hospital where we are introduced to the remaining actor Kevin Spirtas, who plays an attendant and Dr. Peyron.

The beauty of the Van Gogh art is cleverly projected as backdrop, in exquisite detail, over the entire stage set that includes a small portion of an upscale living room with fireplace over which specific paintings can be viewed, as well as on the opposite side that includes Vincent’s bed and easel (used to project paintings) to the credit of David Bengali. Expect to see The Starry Night, Bedroom in Arles, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, Still Life – Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, Irises, Wheat Field with Cypresses, and more . . . wonderful highlights that accessorize the beauty of the music.

Carter Hudson

 

I’m of the mind that the addition of dialogue between characters might enhance this production as would a shortened presentation, without intermission.

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century features on violin, Henry Wang and Yuval Herz, on viola Chich-Fan Yiu and on cello Timotheos Petrin. The pianists are Max Varros and Renana Gutman. If you are a fan of classical music brilliantly played, then you’ll enjoy the uniqueness and creativity of how it is artfully shared.

 

Van Gogh’s Ear is currently at The Pershing Square Signature Center (Irene Diamond Stage), 480 West 42 Street thru September 10.   www.romanticcentury.org

 

Photos: Shirin Tinati

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