REVIEW – Bach at Leipzig – Pear Avenue Theatre

Seldom do I find I show as sassy and sarcastic as myself, but the Pear Avenue Theatre’s production of Bach at Leipzig has put up a respectable fight for the title. A witty mix of vaudevillian slapstick, masterfully crafted satirical farce and beautiful love letter to music, this is a production to pay attention to! Its rich layers of text are thick with both historical reference and ridiculous jokes and it moves seamlessly between sincerity and parody in the intimate 40 seat theatre.

The all-male cast is a motley crew of pretty, funny, and pretty funny dudes, whose varied clearly defined characters are all-at-once sufficiently stereotypical, nuanced and individually crafted. The chemistry is lovely and I admired how each character stood their ground. There was no bleeding of characters into each other. They all complimented and contrasted each other remarkably. They played their type and they played them well, creating a fun balance and rhythm that served the piece well practically as well as thematically. Plus, due some bitchin’ costuming, they looked sharp doing it too.

This play really is superbly constructed. Nay, composed. With visual and audible choruses, motifs, melodies and harmonies, it’s somehow aware of its form, satire and genius without being pretentious or predictable. This is the type of play I imagine being written in one tortuous marathon until its creative captor is nearly deceased from the fatigue of translating to the page. It HAD to be written and nothing was likely coincidental. The sequence of scenes, the words, the length, every detail intentional yet never overly formulaic. Its art shines through the technical structure there to support it and it was similarly and effectively performed with that same artistry.

There were a handful of challenges for sure. There seemed a missed opportunity with sound cue levels which might have been funnier if they were simply louder and the blocking which factors into the top of the second act dramatically, could have been a lot tighter and more deliberate. I found the lighting to be too over the top, unnecessary and distracting in many places. Additionally, the set proved a bit cumbersome for the numerous entrances and exits that are so crucial in farces. Entryways were a tad small, curtains got in the way and flats shook when caught by a shoulder or prop.

Technical glitches or shortsightedness aside, I was totally charmed by this bizarre and clever composition and can easily recommend it. A quirky and intelligent 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a wonderful show as entertaining I think for the “common man” as it is for the musician, playwright, dramaturg, or comedian. Bach at Leipzig plays through April 22nd at the Pear Avenue Theater in Mountain View.

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