Victoria Musica (Review)

Playhouse world premiere delves into the mysteries of motivation

Oct 5, 2009 at 2:06 pm

How can people with the best of intentions do things that eventually turn out to be wrong, or at least misguided? Such matters are the foundation of Michele Lowe’s Victoria Musica, in its world premiere at the Cincinnati Playhouse.

The overt focus of this play is Victoria Wedlin (Mariann Mayberry, pictured), a world-renowned cellist whose artistic output comes under question. Following a quick and stellar rise to fame, she withdrew from public view for health reasons but issued many acclaimed recordings. After her death, however, questions arise as to whether the recorded performances are actually hers. How and why would that happen?

A similar question could be asked of music critic Jeremy Lenz (Tommy Schrider), who savaged her most popular recording. Following her death, he obsessively pursues the issue of her authenticity. But why? Is it his ego? Does he feel music fans expect the truth? He comes close to ruining his career and her posthumous reputation. And for what?

These mysteries drive Victoria Musica, but in the case of Lenz they undermine his veracity as a character. Schrider plays him initially as glib and rather shallow. Only when Lenz begins to see how his inquiry has affected others’ lives — especially Wedlin’s husband Jonathan (played sympathetically by Stephen Caffrey) — does he have second thoughts. The clash of passion, truth and creativity did not resolve with enough emotional satisfaction for me.

The show is imaginatively staged in the Shelterhouse with a design team including Joseph P. Tilford (whose set uses a gorgeous glass case displaying three glowing cellos) and Thomas C. Hase (whose lighting places characters in shifting pools of light) and directed by Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern. The physical production is impressive, but I would have preferred more heart and clarity in this intriguing tale of misguided, well-intended motivations.

VICTORIA MUSICA, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, continues through Oct. 25. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.