Viennese Waltz

Steve Capra's review of
Final Analysis

by Otho Eskin
directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser
produced by Signature Center, off-Broadway
August seventh to October sixth, 2013
Vienna was the center of central Europe of the turn of the 20th century. The upper classes were still enjoying life in these last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while the masses struggled, typically for the period, in poverty. In that city many of the talents of the early 20th century lived, and many of the century’s ideas were born.

1910 Vienna is the setting for Otho Eskin’s play Final Analysis. The play was a roaring success at the New York International Fringe Festival last year. It presents no lesser personages than Gustav Mahler, his wife Alma (who would, incidentally, later marry Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel), Ludwig Wittgenstein, Josef Stalin and Sigmund Freud.  Mahler, as it happens, engaged the services of Sigmund Freud during the period. Mahler’s relationship with Alma, shown in flashbacks during an initial therapy session, forms the spine of the play, such as it is. 
A single day in a stylish café is presented, with conversations between these five in various combinations. They’re joined by a young artist/composer of dubious talent. Mahler approaches Freud for help and his first therapy session takes place right there by the Danube. During the flashbacks document Mahler’s relationship with Alma up to that point in their strained marriage. The play touches a theme of sexism as Alma is expected to surrender her own musical ambitions to focus her life on her husband.

Somehow Alma ends up in a conversation with Stalin, too. The script strains plausibility here and passes into an extreme and entertaining unlikelihood. It’s the best scene of the play as she insists on his pointing his gun at her.

The minimal set, two café tables and chairs, is delicate and stylish. And there are marvelous upstage projections.

The play’s primary theme is the juxtaposition of ideas that can emerge from in a given time and place. Given this particular time and place, the play is charming.

However, it’s unsatisfying. Charm can only get a show so far. There’s no real plot here, no structure, no conflict. We find no meal, only dessert.

- Steve Capra

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