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Bev Cohn: Bach At Leipzig: A Hilarious Farce

Bach at Leipzig
A Hilarious Farce
By Beverly Cohn

Bach at Leipzig at the Odyssey Theatre
Rob Nagle as Fasch and Leland Crooke as Kaufmann. Photo Credit: Enci

ny time Artist Director Ron Sossi's name is associated with a production, you can be sure you are in for a fasten-your-seat-belt evening of theatre at the famed Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, one of Los Angeles' most distinguished companies. Bach At Leipzig is yet another notch on Sossi's excellent production belt.

The setting for this outrageous Moliere-inspired farce is outside the Thomaskirche in Leipzig in the year 1722. Following the death of the famous organist Johann Kuhnau, seven composers have been summoned to compete for that position, the most prestigious in all of Germany, carrying with it a salary and the ability to influence trends in music, culture, and even politics of the Holy Roman Empire. And compete they do using blackmail, skullduggery, betrayal, tomfoolery, backstabbing, and just about any ploy they can think of to win this coveted post.

The opening monologue by Johann Friedrich Fasch, played with elegance and eloquence by Rob Nagle, lays the groundwork for the slapstick antics that are to follow in this most satisfying, marvelously written farce by Itamar Moses. A former student of the deceased musician, Fasch had broken away from his master due to sharp differences on how to serve God through music. The silliness begins as Fasch reads aloud a letter to his wife Anna, "By the time you receive this letter, I will have sent it."

Each of the characters read beautifully crafted letters discussing their views on music, politics, and religion giving the audience exposition in quite a humorous fashion. The letters are then dispatched by imaginary carrier pigeon, a running sight gag throughout the play, with at least one of the pigeons ending up as food instead reaching the correct "mailbox."

Other members of this very gifted cast playing "despicable," but lovable characters include the scheming con artist who desperately needs this post to restore some credibility to his life, the knifing George Lenck, played with great gusto by Dominic Conti, and Henry Clarke's delightful sexually overactive scoundrel dressed in gentlemen's attire, Johann Martin Steindorff. The balance of this perfect ensemble is comprised of Michael Cavanaugh as George Phillip Telemann, Bill Brochtrup as Johann Christoph Graupner, and the down-trodden Georg Balthasar Schott, played with just the right amount of guile by Joel Polis. An especially hilarious performance is given by Leland Crooke as the daffy Georg Friedrich Kaufman who has trouble distinguishing reality, mistaking some of the cloak-and-dagger plotting as rehearsals for a play. (You might have noted that each of the characters is named either Georg or Johann.)

The production values are sensational with stunning period costumes by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg, complimented by the excellent set by Kurt Boetcher, lighting design by Dan Jenkins, sound by Philip White, and fight choreographer Bill Madden. It should be noted that the assortment of wigs fit the personality of each character adding a hilarious touch to a comedic evening of theatre.

Directed with lightening timing and the utmost of skill by Darin Anthony, it is indeed refreshing to see a Equity-waiver play where the actors in the ensemble are highly professional, trained in theatre arts, move with grace and style, and articulate the English language with sharp clarity. Put this play on your must-see list.

Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

Go There

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

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