33 Variations is a play by Moisés Kaufman, inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven's eponymous work. It débuted on Broadway on March 9, 2009, starring Jane Fonda. Originally written in 2007, its world première was held at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
The play simultaneously examines the creative process behind Beethoven's Diabelli Variations and the journey of a musicologist, Katherine Brandt, to discover the meaning behind why Beethoven was compelled to write thirty-three distinct variations on a simple theme by a minor music publisher. The progression of her Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and her relationship with her daughter are also themes, as is Beethoven's growing deafness.
The action takes place both in Beethoven's time and the present, switching back and forth between the two. However, at certain key points, characters from both time periods appear on stage to deliver lines simultaneously, emphasizing the parallels between the exploits of both sets of characters.
The original production was directed by the playwright, Moisés Kaufman, with piano by Diane Walsh.
The play premièred on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in a limited engagement, on March 9, 2009, with Jane Fonda as Katherine, in her first appearance on Broadway in forty-six years. Grenier returned as Beethoven. Sets by Derek McLane; costumes by Janice Pytel; lighting by David Lander; sound by André J. Pluess; projection design by Jeff Sugg; choreography by Daniel Pelzig. It closed May 21, 2009.
33 Variations had regional premieres at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 23, 2012, at the Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, New York on September 10, 2010, and at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati on September 2, 2009.
Awards and nominations
- Best Play (nominated)
- Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, Jane Fonda (nominated)
- Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play, Zach Grenier (nominated)
- Best Scenic Design of a Play, Derek McLane (WINNER)
- Best Lighting Design of a Play, David Lander (nominated)
- "Who's who", from 33 Variations official website, undated. Accessed May 19, 2009.
- Home Page, from 33 Variations official website, undated. Accessed May 19, 2009.
- Walter McBride, "Photo Coverage: 33 Variations Star Jane Fonda's Caricature Unveiled at Sardi's" Broadway World (broadwayworld.com), May 13, 2009. Accessed May 19, 2009.
- , "'Variations' a superb opener for Cap Rep", Albany Times Union, September 17, 2010
- "New Plays in Production - 2007 Edgerton New American Play Award Recipients", Theatre Communications Group, undated. Accessed May 19, 2009
- Press release, "U.S. Theater Critics Honor Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations", American Theatre Critics Association, March 29, (2008?). Accessed May 19, 2009.