‘33 Variations’ feels like it is full of at least 33 cliches

Maureen Keiller, Dakota Shepard and Kelby T. Akin star in "33 Variations" at the Lyric.

“33 Variations,” Moises Kaufman’s play dissecting Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations,”  suffers under the weight of the playwright’s effort to create a compelling tale of human drama complete with madcap genius, mystery and intrigue. While threads of it are quite good, Kaufman often relies on predictable plot lines and schmaltzy dialogue to fuel the purely fictional parts of the story.

At times during the Lyric Stage Company’s current production, the melodrama teeters on the brink of histrionic but is kept grounded by the stellar performance of Maureen Keiller (Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger). Not only is her German scientist the lone voice of reason, but Keiller’s timing is impeccable and embodiment complete.

Paula Plum nails the arrogance and impatience of haughty academic Dr. Katherine Brandt, the musicologist obsessing over Beethoven’s work. Unfortunately, the deathbed scenes and emotional resolve with her daughter are so cliche that even the excellent Plum can’t keep them from feeling overwrought.   

Kelby T. Akin adds some believability to the story with his charming portrayal of Katherine’s nurse, Mike Clark, while Victor Shopov is delightful as Beethoven’s lackey. 

Another problem with this production is the blocking. If you happen to be seated in either of the Lyric’s two side sections, you spend a great deal of time looking at the actor’s backs. Though distracting, it’s worse when pivotal moments are heard rather than seen.

With the exception of Keiller and Plum, the cast completely ignores these sections until the curtain call. Of course, Keiller and Plum are the main reasons to see this show.

‘33 Variations’
Through Feb. 2
Lyric Stage
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$25-$58, 617-585-5678
www.lyricstage.com


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Judge strikes down NY limits on donations to…

A federal judge on Thursday reluctantly struck down New York's limits on donations to independent political action committees as unconstitutional, potentially ushering in a new…

Local

On-duty NYPD detective arrested for DWI in Queens

A New York City Police detective was arrested early Thursday and charged with driving under the influence while on the clock.

Local

City Council committee moves Williamsburg's Domino refinery deal…

The deal to turn the old Domino Sugar refinery along the Williamsburg waterfront into a new housing complex is one Council vote away from approval.

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

Movies

'A Brony Tale' documents men who are into…

Ashleigh Ball, a voice actress on "My Little Pony," speaks to us.

Movies

Tribeca: Nikki Reed on going funny for a…

"Intramural" star Nikki Reed talks about being the straight person in a broad comedy, spending time in Austin and how "Thirteen" was a "miracle."

Going Out

Pop-up cat cafe opens to long lines in…

The country's first pop-up cat cafe opened in New York on Thursday.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

5 infamous pitcher ejections for cheating

Never fear Yankees fans, Michael Pineda is far from the first MLB pitcher to be thrown out of a game for cheating.

MLB

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda ejected for using pine…

Pineda was thrown out of the game against the Red Sox Wednesday for having pine tar on his neck -- for all the world to see.

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.

Style

MAC & Proenza Schouler collection unveiled

MAC Cosmetics is releasing a new collection with Proenza Schouler.