note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Frédéric Chopin … Hershey Felder
Three seasons ago, at the A.R.T., actor-pianist Hershey Felder offered his ROMANTIQUE about the composer Frédéric Chopin, the author George Sand, and the painter Eugene Delacroix; it made for a wooden evening but was redeemed by Mr. Felder’s own virtuosity along with an indelible Romantic image: Mme. Sand resting her hand on M. Chopin’s while he tickled the ivories, feeling the music through his fingers. Now Mr. Felder has returned with MONSIEUR CHOPIN, Part Two in a composer-trilogy with his acclaimed Gershwin show as Part Three and Ludwig Van Beethoven soon to premiere as Part One. In ROMANTIQUE, Mr. Felder’s Chopin was, in my words, “lumpy and sullen, the type of invalid who would linger for years”; now, having the stage all to himself, Mr. Felder gets to twinkle and charm and throw in some shtick impersonations, to boot, but M. Chopin still comes off as gifted but dull and much of MONSIEUR CHOPIN’s musical selections are used as psychological insights though they, too, are exquisitely played. (The evening’s premise is that of a piano lesson, with the audience as students --- but what student would part with good money to listen to a man talk more about himself than musical composition?) Only in the afterpiece, when Mr. Felder switches from first- to third-person mode, does he fascinate in his insights --- there is no intermission, of course, but there is a concluding sing-a-long, a pop-chaser to all that long-haired music but minus the bouncing ball.
The precieuse scenic and lighting designs are by Yael Pardess and Richard Norwood and framed by an A.R.T.-skewered proscenium, and John Boesche’s distracting back-projections evoke a drive-in ELVIRA MADIGAN; in fact, all of that blue and lavender and mauve prompts me to suggest that Mr. Felder do an evening of Liberace, who was just as much a showman and no slouch in the visual department --- and I am not kidding.