Our hero begins with an allegorical Joseph Conrad story leaving one with the discomfiting thought that life “didn’t have to be this way.” He’s just rediscovered a 2001 journal documenting a visit to “an old high school chum” in Washington, D.C. While his ambitious friend worked, the directionless young man explored the city looking at it like only an aspiring writer could, as source material.
There’s no fourth wall. We’re regaled as if the character is trying to make sense of what he’s written/remembers and needs a sounding board. A violinist fades in and out behind the translucent scrim. (Later he’ll emerge.) Playing is passionate, pristine. The story lies somewhere between O. Henry and Edgar Allen Poe. It begins pedestrian, becomes mysterious, then life changing, returning aria da capo to a now disoriented commonplace.
Walking through town, he comes upon an old building that says Merridew Theatre, yet is inhabited by an active barber shop. Assuming the building had been a theater, the young man almost doesn’t notice a sign announcing that night’s concert: The Maryland Vietnam War Veterans’ Baroque Chamber Ensemble plays Albinoni, Bach, Telemann, and the world premiere of The Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by John Morton.
Very much of his time, the young man is interested in neither The Vietnam War – dismissed as of his parents’ generation – nor, in fact music. Nonetheless, he resolves to attend in hopes of an intriguing evening. (Period projections later present the “conflict.”) He returns, passes through two doorways, pays $10 to a couple of cinematic characters, and enters an abandoned theater in which even the seats have been torn out. (The set floor is covered in debris.) About 100 men he presumes to be veterans sit on folding chairs. “I feel like I’m in a David Lynch movie.”
We follow the concert through observations, thoughts and impressions. What begins boring, eliciting restless wool gathering, culminates in an extraordinary experience despite, or perhaps due to billed discordance. Our hero is so excited, he chases composer Joe Morton (Jacques Mindreau) to his unexpected work place and interacts in an even more surprising fashion.
Years have passed. The man is no longer young and has had a life, though not the one he’d planned. He closes with a vivid description of Morton’s composition/the concert, perhaps longing for past fearlessness and raw vulnerability.
One Discordant Violin is written with few stage directions. The protagonist’s (Anthony Black) storytelling is almost constantly underscored by live violin (Jacques Mindreau) and live-looped by Sound Designer Aaron Collier. Some of this is curious, most, evocative and pleasing. Black is engaging and natural. Mindreau is a splendid musician.
At times, we hear parts of an orchestra, another solo violin, sound effects. Imaginative Projection and lighting design by Nick Bottomley and Anna Shepard add to the show’s hallucinatory qualities. Black’s translucent, multi-screen wall allows both a live figure behind and projected images to remain ghostly. We know at once the venue is crumbling and forsaken. A cohesive vision.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Anthony Black, Behind- Jacques Mindreau
2b theatre company presents
One Discordant Violin
Adapted by Anthony Black from a short story by Yann Martel
Original Music by Aaron Collier and Jacques Mindreau
Co-Directed by Anne-Marie Kerr and Anthony Black
Featuring Anthony Black and Jacques Mindreau
Through November 24, 2019