The Covid 19 era of streaming new plays comes of age with Jake Broder’s scintillating new play, UnRavelled, presented by Global Brain Health Institute, based at the University of California, San Francisco; and Trinity College Dublin, at the University of Dublin, Ireland. The play is inspired by the true story of Canadian painter, Anne Adams (Lucy Davenport in a flawless performance) and her ethereal connection with the great composer Maurice Ravel (arch, elfin Conor Duffy). Both suffered from primary progressive aphasia, a disease that gradually causes the loss of language, yet leaves intact an urgent on-going burst of creativity, which manifested, in the case of Anne Adams, in a series of extraordinary paintings.
Lucy Davenport as Anne Adams, Leo Marks as Dr. Bruce Miller, and Rob Nagle as Robert Adams. Photo by Corwin Evans.
The playwright tells the story in short vignettes, beginning with a domestic scene between Anne and her husband, Robert (the always excellent Rob Nagle). He loves her, but she becomes more and more withdrawn after leaving her university career to take up painting. After she begins to lose language, Robert seeks the help of Doctor Miller (played by Obie Award winner Leo Marks), a neurological physician who appears in series of vignettes called “A Formal Speaking Engagement,” in which he begins to describe the nature of Anne’s progressive illness.
Melissa Greenspan as Ida Rubinstein and Conor Duffy as Maurice Ravel. Photo by Corwin Evans
The play takes a whimsical turn when Anne has conversations with Maurice Ravel, who has some of the same symptoms, and Ravel, in turn, has scenes with dancer, Ida Rubinstein (Melissa Greenspan), who commissioned Ravel’s ever popular work, “Bolero.” Narrations are smoothly provided by Michael Lanahan.
Keenly directed by Nike Doukas, UnRavelled, is extraordinary. The cast is superb, the script important, and, for this critic, the most satisfying piece of theatre he has seen in very nearly a year. Impeccably produced and performed, UnRavelled is Balm of Gilead, or, if you prefer, water in the desert.
UnRavelled begins streaming Thursday, February 25 at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET and remains available on demand through March 31. It is free. Here’s the link—www.UnRavelledPlay.com