The Music Lesson
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Ed Smith

The Music Lesson, now playing at Marin Theatre in Mill Valley, is a wonderful dramatic depiction of the healing powers of music. Playwright Tammy Ryan based the two main characters on people she met and became friends with. The married couple are two musicians who had escaped war torn Sarajevo in 1994.

In the resulting fictional drama, Ivan, played by Ron Campbell, and Irena (Lorri Holt) were music teachers in Sarajevo. Ivan, a violinist and Irena, a pianist, lost many of their young students in the war, and the trauma of this loss is very fresh in their minds as they attempt to start a new life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Though the subject matter sounds a bit depressing, itís just the opposite. The play is upbeat and full of laughter and hope. Campbell and Holt throw themselves totally into their roles resulting in the audience empathizing with these two unique characters. The all American family they interact with through the course of the drama contrasts their Balkan flavor beautifully.

Mrs. Johnson (Cambron Williamson) is recently divorced and trying to bring up her two children while working more than full time. Her son Eddie (Nicholas Taber) plays violin and her daughter Kat (Rosalie Ward) a little piano, so she enrolls them for music lessons with Ivan and Irena. Eddie and Kat fight constantly as does Kat and her mother. Itís obvious that there are some family problems stemming from the divorce. Kat does posses a cat like rebellion against anything her mother wants her to do; therefore she rebels against her piano lessons.

Itís this rebellion, particularly toward her piano teacher, that brings opposites together, sparking great drama and healing change. Irenaís former students had all wanted to learn. Indeed, concentrating on playing the piano helped keep them focused and sane in their insane world at war, so Irena has difficulty understanding Katís resistance. But in a fiery exchange of emotions both women begin to reveal something deeper. Music is ďa way to protect myself,Ē Irena says. Music ďmakes me feel things I donít want to feel,Ē Kat admits. ďIt hurts.Ē

The musical accompaniment to this drama is also top notch with Skye Atman playing piano and Wieslaw Pogorzelski on violin. The set design expressed the drama perfectly by having the back wall of Irena and Ivanís apartment blasted open as though it had been hit by an artillery shell, but instead of opening to a war torn country scene, it opens to Atman at her grand piano and Pogorzelski. Both musicians play their instruments as though they were characters in the play and their music the dialogue.

Drama doesnít get any better than Marin Theatreís production of The Music Lesson. For tickets or more information call (415) 388-5208 or visit

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