Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Prize: A View Into The World of Classical Music Performance

First Prize offers a glimpse inside the world of classic music performance, written by a performer who has lived it. Isrela Margalit is a both a Playwright and a musician. In First Prize, she tells the story of Adrianna Woodland, a pianist striving to succeed in the field of classical music. Ms. Margalit’s familiarity with the source material makes this a fascinating tour.

The story uses an interesting dynamic which follows the pattern of memory, not really the pattern of events. Since road to success was so memorable, the play focuses primarily on the journey - the fights to audition, the failures, and the endless closed doors which probably figured very prominently in the playwright’s life. This journey is shown so well and so detailed, that once Adrianna achieves her goals you expect the show to wrap up. Instead, her successful years are very lightly touched on, 25 – 25 years fly by in a flash. And then the career wrap up takes center stage.

Brian Dykstra, Susan Ferrara and Lori Prince
It is a four person show. Adrianna, the focus, is played almost entirely by Lori Prince with an honest freshness. The other 3 actors portray a variety of characters, teacher, lover, agent, conductor, etc. They do an excellent job of defining their own various characters, not easy given how distinctive each of the actors look. All of these characters are reflections of Adrianna’s memories, and so there isn’t so much character development with these roles, but instead character changes based on Adrianna’s reactions to long ago kindnesses or slights. The other three talented actors are Brian Dykstra, Susan Ferrara and Christopher Hirsh.

First prize brings some fun and touching moments to the stage and is very enjoyable. But the play does suffer from an autobiographical viewpoint, reducing the believability and making it difficult to relate to the character. In particular, Adrianna probably wasn’t “farm fresh and wholesome” all the time. Her lover didn’t awaken overnight to resent her distance. Her teacher never says a word of correction, only praise, confidence building and sage old advice.

The play ends with Adrianna reflecting on her life, her love of music and the fact she wouldn’t have changed a thing, even though she seems bitter. Eh… I would have changed a couple things.

The fight to make it in the business, the trails, the honesty – that was beautifully done, and is rightfully the focus of the show. It should have stopped there. There was a truly wonderful moment where Adrianna Woodlawn was all alone in a hotel bar after a show. She and the bartender flirt, despite the fact she has a lover waiting at home. It summed up what Adrianna’s life would (and did) turn into. The moment summed up, in those few sentences and their interaction, where Adrianna was going to end up. We didn’t need it spelled out over the next 15 minutes.

First Prize is a very good show, with a little cutting; it would be an excellent show.
First Prize (Website and Tickets)
Playwright: Israela Margalit
Director: Margarett Perry
Cast: Brian Dykstra, Susan Ferrara, Christopher Hirsh, Lori Prince

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