Angela Hewitt: The Pleasure of Her Company

Angela Hewitt. Photo: Bernd Eberle.

Angela Hewitt. Photo: Bernd Eberle.

The superb pianist Angela Hewitt was scheduled to arrive in Durham a day ahead of her Feb. 17 recital, but weather delays kept her in Toronto until just five hours before the Duke concert. That did not seem to flurry this international artist, who gave a performance very close to perfection.

This review was originally published on

Half-jokingly, I keep a list of my top-ten lifetime music experiences. Naturally, the list is continually revised. Some concerts will probably never be bumped — Janis Joplin in the spring of 1969; Piedmont bluesman Willie Trice with his National steel guitar laid across his legless lap in UNC’s Gerard Hall — but something’s got to come off to make room for the Angela Hewitt piano recital presented by Duke Performances in Reynolds Theater. She performed her program of Bach and Debussy, so intelligent and well-constructed, with gleaming elegance and delicate emotionality, but there was something more — the joyous magic that occurs between a virtuoso musician and an attentive audience. The room was radiant with all the colors of music-love. This was my first experience of Hewitt live, and maybe she does this each time she performs, but it felt rare and wondrous….


Hewitt’s website is unusually attractive, with its blog-entry homepage and good organization. For something to dream on during a dreary February day, visit the tab/link to the Trasimeno music festival she organizes in Umbria, where she lives part of the year.


Modern Romance at Common Ground Theatre in MY PRINCESS BRIDE

Joe Brack as the character Inigo Montoya in his production, MY PRINCESS BRIDE. Photo  courtesy Rus Hames.

Joe Brack as the character Inigo Montoya in his production, MY PRINCESS BRIDE, now playing at Common Ground . Photo courtesy Rus Hames.

According to the man on stage telling the story, he, Joe Brack, became obsessed with the film The Princess Bride when he was a boy struggling with various physical and social problems whiles growing up in the Boston area. The 1987 film featured a grandfather reading a story to his ill grandson–a sweeping story of adventure, heroics and romance that sometimes fell away to reveal its framing device. Joe Brack, an actor who has previously worked in the Triangle, but who now lives and works in Washington, DC (where he has done a lot of work at respected venues like the Studio, Theatre J and Constellation) conceived his one-man show, My Princess Bride, along the same lines. Like a man reading from a book, he performs all the characters, but frequently falls back to work his own story into the braid of narrative. Directed by Matty Griffiths of City Artistic Partnerships, Brack premiered the work at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival. He and Griffiths took the show to Greensboro Fringe in January, and will go on to Greenville, SC after the run ends Feb. 17 at Durham’s Common Ground Theatre.

Brack is, in a sense, a contemporary troubadour in t-shirt and wrinkled work pants, spreading the courtly tale of true love around the countryside. There are many echoes in Princess Bride of the great 12th century romance of Tristan and Iseult, although Brack eschews the elegance inherent in that tale (which was brought out with such aching beauty  in David Lang’s love fail as sung by Anonymous Four). But Brack’s version includes all the great themes and motifs: lovers separated; a quest; capture by pirates; love persistent; escape; battles with giants; sword-fighting; lovers reunited–the whole nine yards. It is the interlacing of his own (so he says) story with that of the movie and book (although he uses a prop book by a different “author” on stage) that makes this into an experimental theater piece.

Joe Brack braids his story with the story from the film, The Princess Bride.

Joe Brack braids his story with the story from the film, The Princess Bride.

Brack not only tells bits about himself (or about someone he’s made up, perhaps–can you ever really know about actors?) and his own struggles to be a heroic character in his own life, but speaks directly to the sound board operator (reminding us that this is theater) and to the audience about their reactions. It’s playful, in a jabbing, aggressive way, and makes a good parallel to all the fencing in the inner story. The fencing scenes (remember, this is one person) are the most visually interesting of the show. Brack has nice style, and obviously relishes whipping the sword around. A few more props and costume items would not have come amiss, and would have aided in discerning which character is speaking. Brack has a voice for each, but sometimes in rapid action they got blurred.

Brack’s voice is his great tool here, and he has almost too much of it for the small room at Common Ground. He can be subtle, but often prefers to shout, and from the front row was often overwhelming. Yet the show is peppered with delightful, charming moments, and one leaves smiling. Ah, love. It conquers all.

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