Relearning the Universal Language

In war and in peace, music becomes more than simply a backdrop to life

Part of The Music Lesson's success in saying something meaningful and emotionally relevant about such a serious subject is the incorporation of everyday humor in the dialogue. Watching Irena and Ivan struggle to communicate in English provides levity, as do comments from the children, as when Eddie exclaims, "We're not a family. We're just people living in the same house." This humor reflects an emotional honesty in the script that is portrayed well by the actors. Conversely the script also addresses the characters' familiarity with evil. Early in the play Maja describes the evolving tension among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims as "a dark river of hate rising." Later, when the violence has reached its height and families have been torn apart, she begins to feel that same river rising in her. Although still a young girl, she must struggle with adult conflicts. This emotional veracity is consistent in Maggi St. Clair Melin's delivery throughout the play.

The Music Lesson is not just another account of human tragedy desensitized by a flood of overt emotion and sentimentality, it is a moving account of people trying to rebuild their lives. Music is not used for transitioning or for catapulting the more dramatic moments over the top. In fact codirectors Louis Tyrrell and Mark Lynch have conjured up the best of both worlds -- solid, emotive theater and eloquent live music. The presence of the pianist and violinist gives the audience not only the benefit of live classical music but also the opportunity to witness the artistry that goes into playing an instrument while avoiding the logistic problem of actors attempting to play instruments professionally. Although the actors indeed must accurately mime the playing of their instrument, Tyrrell and Lynch lead their cast toward a more conceptual approach, allowing the audience to witness the emotion involved in the playing without the obtrusiveness of the instrument itself. Like the invisible walls of Grovers Corners in Our Town, these invisible instruments give breadth to the actors' portrayals and the audience's imagination.

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