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For those looking for a theatre show that is creative, challenging and thought-provoking, The … Musician. An Étude is one to take in.

This past weekend I attended a new production, The… Musician: An Étude, by Toronto Laboratory Theatre; presented by Theátrus. Adapted from the 19th century Ukrainian-Russian novella The Blind Musician by Vladimir Korolenko, this new play tells the moving story of a boy born without sight who learns to communicate through music.

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The sixty-minute drama explores the senses and their limitations through the interplay of lighting, spoken text, physical gestures and live classical piano music. The … Musician. An Étude challenges the audience’s perceptions, inviting us to dive into a world where the most common signs of communication are perpetually concealed. The mood and tone is set from the moment we step into an almost fully dark theatre.

The story focuses on Peter (Kevin Kashani), his uncle Frank (Clayton Gray), and Peter’s mother (Shelley Liebembuk). Other characters come into play as the story progresses over time. Gray and Liebembuk play these other characters, and are quite good at it, too. Although there is a plot, the story is mostly told through minimal visual tools. Through a darkened stage, we see the actors’ faces, hands, and feet. These are how they ‘tell’ the story. The language of hands and feet is very well thought out here. The choreography involved in matching hand and feet movements must have taken a long time to achieve. Their timing was almost perfect.

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I read that Art Babayants, the writer-director of the piece, wanted the audience to share in Peter’s blindness. The darkness we are immersed in certainly emphasizes this. It also helps us pay closer attention to the words, the lighting, and of course, the music. The clever use of lighting, designed by Paul J. Stoesser, helps to evoke Peter’s mental state; his own confinement. There is a scene where Peter sits by the piano – all we see are his hands. Simultaneously, Babayants is sitting a few feet parallel to Peter – we also only see his hands. The two sets of hands are ‘seen’ playing the piano; it’s rather memorable.

The music in The … Musician. An Étude adds yet another layer into the story. We hear piano music by Mozart and Beethoven in this production. It is through music that Peter is able to manifest his emotions, from frustration to happiness. Music often proves to be more powerful in eliciting certain emotions; sometimes much better than words.

Here is where this play succeeds for me. It may be an experimental piece in that it asks us to let go of what we can ‘see’ and piece together the story by immersing ourselves in Peter’s life and his experience being blind. It is as if we are being asked to put ourselves in his shoes, so to speak. Here, I venture to say, The … Musician. An Étude is not so much about the story itself but about the experience. As audience members, we are limited in what we can see yet have other tools to aid us in understanding Peter. It is a meditative and contemplative piece. For those looking for a theatre show that is creative, challenging and thought-provoking, The … Musician. An Étude is one to take in.

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The … Musician. An Étude runs until Sunday, January 26 at Dancemakers Centre for Creation in the Distillery District. Tickets range from $20 – $25 and are available online. With the aim of accessibility, Toronto Laboratory Theatre also invites visually impaired audience members to attend with a companion who will receive a complimentary ticket. The show is also family friendly and recommended for children over eight years old. For full details, visit torontolab.org.


Hyes_musings_iconHeidy is a guest contributor on the BeMused Blog, sharing her love of film, theatre, music, art, and culture in general to encourage more audiences to discover what Toronto has to offer. Check out more of her writing at Hye’s Musings.