Writer’s block is a malady that impacts many a creative genius. (I know I’ve suffered from it.) But a three-year case of it seems extreme. But that’s what the composer Rachmaninoff suffered from, and in Preludes we learn about the tedium and tragedy of a great talent being unable to create his art.
The setting for the show is “the hypnotized mind of Sergei Rachmaninoff.” But we’re actually inside the mind of Rach, as Rachmaninoff is portrayed by another actor who sits at at a piano playing the composer’s and the show’s melodies. The reason for Rach’s block – a disastrous symphony, conducted by a drunk conductor – has left him unable to put quill to paper. His fiancée is both sympathetic and getting fed up, various historical figures (Tolsty, the Tsar Nicholas II and Alexander Glazunov – the drunk conductor) offer their advice and his hypnotherapist is trying to cure him.
Confused yet? This show, like its great set, is cluttered and has the audience wondering if certain events really happened. Preludes is brought to us by the Dave Malloy, composer and author of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, the immersive retelling of War and Peace. I was thoroughly enchanted by that show. I liked Preludes but found it too long and the session where Rach is hypnotized actually put some audience members to sleep at the performance I attended! There are some lovely songs and piano playing and the actors, led by Gabriel Ebert as Rach, are uniformly good. I may have been helped by knowing a little more about Rachmaninoff than the fact that he composed Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor (from which Eric Carmen “borrowed” for his hit All by Myself). AFW
Preludes, LCT Theater, 150 W 65th Street
Ticket prices: $30
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes, with a brief pause
Runs thru: July 19, 2015