BWW Review: THE OTHER MOZART at SHEA'S 710 THEATRE
HIGH ART RETURNS IN "THE OTHER MOZART"
Child prodigies may be rare, but not necessarily that rare if you grew up in the Mozart family of Salzburg. The unknown and until now mostly untold story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's older sister, Maria Anna (Nannerl), is equally as fascinating as that of her infamous brother. Thanks to creator, author, and performer Sylvia Milo, Nannerl's story is given it's due in her ethereal THE OTHER MOZART now playing at Shea's 710 Theatre.
This elegant avant garde production would give the impression that it was custom made for the 710 thrust stage, but it has toured extensively around the globe, from Mozart's home town of Salzburg to Vienna, London , Canada, and New York. Ms. Milo has researched Nannerl's story through the multitude of available family correspondences. If not for a younger brother and an age when women were reduced to harpsichord parlor playing, Nannerl most likely would have been as well known a composer/performer as Amadeus or Haydn.
Ms. Milo revels in the playful manner one would expect a Mozart child to be, having been given a glimpse into Amadeus' oddities in Peter Schaffer's play AMADEUS. Just at the start of her musical harpsichord lessons, it is obvious to her father that she is extremely talented, but the birth of her brother, who she often refers to as a "little shit," usurps her potential as he is christened a genius. The Mozart father, Ludwig, capitalizes on the his two children's talent, parading them all over Europe, but while Nannerl is appreciated for her talent, Amadeus is deified. Conventions of the period would never allow Nannerl to play any other instrument and her own musical inventions, however brilliant, were thwarted by society, including her mother who only wanted her to settle down and marry.
Director Isaac Byrne's hand deftly guides Ms. Milo in this one woman show. With her slight frame, white stockings and bustiere, she traipses and giggles, but also elegantly embodies Nannerl from childhood to adult married woman. Portraying all characters through voice and body gestures, she is at her funniest with her improbable but infectious imitation of baby Amadeus' laugh. Her initial meeting of Amadeus' wife, Costanze, is a tour de force, where with a flip of her fan she glides from character to character acting out a family dinner scene. Despite a mildly intrusive accent, Ms. Milo's interpretation of Nannerl shines with a gossamer touch, melding from drama to what can also be described as performance art.
As one would expect, music plays a large part in this production, but not just music of the Mozart family. Composers Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen have written evocative underscoring as well as finely choreographed sound effects that accompany Ms. Milo's every gesture. Joshua Rose's lighting design highlights the simple but fascinating set/costume of Nannerl. Best described as a huge circular cluster of white fabric littered with small props and copious letters, Ms. Milo pulls objects from hidden pockets and has every letter at her fingertips. When she powders her face, the white powder wafts over the entire playing area, as if she is enveloped by a cloud. At the finale she slips into a pannier attached to the fabric, rises as if on that same cloud and exits as the fabric becomes her gown- an appropriately dramatic ending to this visually stunning production.
THE OTHER MOZART plays at Shea's 710 Theatre through May 7, 2017. Visit sheas.org for more information.