‘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
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Music

polyphonic

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…