N.C. State LIVE brought Polish playwright, violinist, and actress Sylvia Milo and her internationally touring one-woman play, The Other Mozart, to N.C. State University’s Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre last weekend. Milo won the 2015 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Solo Performance as Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (1751-1829), older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91). Over 75 minutes, Nannerl tells the story of her life as it relates to her own musical accomplishments, which were overshadowed by those of her favored brother. It was not a lack of talent that keeps her name off of your lips, but her father’s insistence that she “study” housekeeping rather than music. Music, he said, was of better use to her little brother.
Under the precise hand of American director Isaac Byrne, this successful Off-Broadway monodrama features an elaborate, ethereal soundscape by Nathan Davis (2015 Drama Desk Award Nomination for Outstanding Sound Design in a Play) and a stunning original score by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen (2015 New York Innovative Theatre Award Winners for Outstanding Original Music), all of which blend seamlessly with Baroque compositions. Joshua Rose’s lighting design proves definitively that dozens of scenes across decades of history can be delineated and enhanced with even a minimal grid.
The most iconic element of this play is, of course, The Dress. Polish fashion designer Magdalena Dabrowska has created a functional dress that is 18 feet in diameter, complete with a central pannier/corset sculpture by Chicago-based costume designer Miodrag Guberinic (who also designed Madonna’s 2015 Rebel Heart tour). The dress serves as the entirety of the set, and Nannerl never leaves its surface — with its hidden prop pockets and pages of letters and sheet music. The only time Nannerl leaves the surface of the dress is to step inside it and strap into the cloud of white, topped off by Courtney Bednarowski’s hairstyling (no wigs are used in this play).
Sylvia Milo’s play is provocative and moving, without becoming sentimental. It is also remarkably intelligent. As Nannerl, Milo, trained in period movement and German dialect, exemplifies the metaphor of the caged bird. Her performance is charming and absorbing.
Even though there are a few dips in audience engagement near the end of the piece, it is an enlightening play that elaborates on the centuries-long battle for female artists to be given proper notice. Some progress has been made over the last 200 years, but it is sadly unsurprising how much Nannerl’s story foreshadows those of thousands of forgotten women.
Milo recently performed the play in Austria — at the Mozarthaus Vienna, the house where little brother “Wolfie” lived from 1784 to 1787. For that one night, one must have felt that the museum was named for Nannerl. As Milo takes Nannerl around the world, the original New York City production continues to run at the Players Theatre, with a rotating lineup of actresses in the role. Milo will return to the stage as Nannerl on Dec. 9th at the Kravis Center in Palm Beach, FL.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 9th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-other-mozart/Event?oid=5075011.
THE OTHER MOZART, written and performed by Sylvia Milo (N.C. State LIVE, Nov. 11 and 12 in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall in Raleigh).
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://vimeo.com/98361905, http://www.theothermozart.com/video, and http://www.sylviamilo.com/videos. 2016-17 SEASON: https://live.arts.ncsu.edu/events/current-season/.
PRESENTER: http://www.ncsu.edu/centerstage/index.html, https://www.facebook.com/NCStateLIVE, and https://twitter.com/NCStateLIVE.
Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia “Nannerl” Mozart (musician, 1751-1829): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Anna_Mozart (Wikipedia).
The Other Mozart (2014 Off-Broadway monodrama): http://www.theothermozart.com/home (official website), https://www.facebook.com/TheOtherMozart (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/TheOtherMozart (Twitter page).
Sylvia Milo (playwright/performer): http://www.sylviamilo.com/home (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3720196/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/sylvia.milo (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/sylvia_milo (Twitter page).
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Dustin K. Britt is a Triangle native, holds a master’s degree in special education from East Carolina University, and teaches locally. He can be spotted all over the Triangle area either painting scenery or chewing o n it. He has received local theater award nominations for doing both. He is a devoted cinephile and author of Hold the Popcorn, a movie blog on Facebook. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment He can also be found via his official Facebook page and on Twitter @dkbritt85.