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Caitriona Murphy, Megan Leitch

The Piano Teacher: Lessons on Life and Letting Go tells the story about about two musicians: Elaine (Caitriona Murphy), a piano teacher, and Erin (Megan Leitch), a concert pianist.

The two women meet for piano lessons and learn to open their hearts in order to move on from sadness. The world of music, specifically the music of the piano, is a metaphor for life, its discourse and its harmony.

Megan Leitch, Caitriona Murphy
[Megan Leitch, Caitriona Murphy]

While music is important to the story and the grand piano positioned centre staged is played beautifully by the actors, the audience only hears segments of compositions. It is in the spaces between the music that the anguish of life is portrayed.

There are raw emotional moments played expertly by the actors. These moments are balanced with some carefree puns and jokes at both Chopin’s and Beethoven’s expense.

Caitriona Murphy, Megan Leitch, Kamyar Pazandeh
[Caitriona Murphy, Megan Leitch, Kamyar Pazandeh]

The physical presence of the music is cleverly illustrated in the set design (David Roberts). Wires resembling piano strings are strung from floor to ceiling and the actors walk through the wires, get trapped and grab on when emotions run high.

The stage allows the actors to move through the different sets seamlessly. Both Erin and her home undergo physical transformation during the performance, providing a counterbalance to the heaviness of the piano at center stage.

Kamyar Pazandeh, Megan Leitch

Erin’s conduit for change is personified in the character of Tom the handyman, played deftly by Kamyar Pazandeh. Tom provides Erin with the lightness she needs in order to live and break free from her past.

There is a spareness to the set that is echoed in the costumes (Jenifer Darbellay) and lighting (Kyla Gardiner). Erin, engulfed in her own grief, wears little makeup, her clothes wrinkled and dishevelled. Elaine represents every woman with her flowing neutral clothing and Pazandeh as Tom is outfitted as the tradesman he portrays, adding a softness to his acting to counter his physical presence.

Kaymar Pazandeh

The flexibility and size of the Goldcorp Stage allows the audience to feel part of the scene with seating flanking both sides. It does mean the actors are sometimes facing away from members of the audience making it difficult for the hearing impaired, however it does create a more intimate setting.

The Piano Teacher is a beautiful composition of pain and strength and the performances are superb. You’ll leave wanting an encore and yearning for classical music, played on the piano of course.

Directed by Yvette Nolan, Dorothy Dittrich’s The Piano Teacher continues through May 14 at Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre.

Photos by David Cooper.

About Our Contributor MJ Ankenman

MJ Ankenman

MJ moved to Vancouver in 2005 and has been keeping busy ever since, enjoying all that the West coast has to offer, sharing discoveries through her writing and photography. MJ’s interests include yoga, biking, hiking, and enjoying BC wine. Follow MJ on Twitter @urbanista.

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