PROCESS THEATER, BEFORE...AND AFTER

Anthony Powell's interpretation of Beethoven is the soul of the production. As accomplished an actor as he is a director (Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, The Last Yankee), Powell's magnificently crafted craziness includes within it a profoundly realized spirituality--a felt, rather than explained, relation to Ultimate Meaning. Lumbering about the stage like a disgruntled bear, his head shaved, Powell's Beethoven argues hilariously with his demons and calls up the strains of his music in answer to life's worst horrors.

There are moments in the play that irritated me to loathing--I certainly understood why some people left angry. Toward the last twenty minutes, the show began to feel excessive even to me. But that's what the evening is partly about--the sharp contrasts in emotion the actors are able to elicit from the audience. The good news is, it's 98 percent ennui-free. And though it infuriates, it also exhilarates. The "Ode to Joy" never felt more relevant.

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