Playwright Allan Leicht has gone to the history books for inspiration to concoct to a broad comedy based on the true story of how anti-Semitic Richard Wagner rebelled against having to accept Jewish Hermann Levi to conduct the premiere of his opera “Parsifal.” The production of "My Parsifal Conductor--A Wagnerian Comedy" is being presented by The Directors Company by special arrangement with Ted Snowdon.
The author juggles time frames with settings in 1930 Germany when Wagner’s delusional widow, Cosima, worries about getting into heaven, and flashbacks between 1880 and 1886, when younger days and the “Parsifal” issue played out. Scenic designer Harry Feiner has provided a lovely bedroom setting in which the action takes place. Director Robert Kalfin works admirably to juggle all of the intricacies that the author has piled on. (I had never been to the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at the West Side YMCA, and was delighted to find how comfortable and suitable it is.)
Eddie Korbich is having a ball cavorting as the highly temperamental and Jew-hating composer Wagner. Claire Brownell also looks as if she’s having the acting time of her life in the large, demanding role of Cosima as Wagner’s wife and widow. Other characters include Logan James Hall as Friedrich Nietszche, who pops in and out from under Cosima’s bed to add spice and show his adoration of Cosima.
There is Carlo Bosticco as King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who repeatedly steps out of a picture frame and insists that Wagner agree to Levi as his conductor. And, of course, there is Geoffrey Cantor as Levi, who is repelled by Wagner’s wanting to convert him and at first refuses to conduct, but later bows under pressure from the king.
The comic turbulence is over-extended, dealing with the different time frames becomes cumbersome, and the writing could use more wit. But there are very funny sequences, as when frustrated Wagner decides to convert Levi by pouring water over his head. Hall as Nietszche provides laughs ,and Brownell can amusingly summon expressions and rantings that define her character as well as illuminate the ridiculous situations. Within all of this is a serious view of the role anti-Semitism played, and there are references to Zionism and Theodor Herzl.
Alison Cimmet plays Dora, Cosima’s stern maid who has to cope with Cosima’s moods and demands. Jazmin Gorsline appears both as Dora’s assistant and also as soprano Carrie Pringle.
If all of the above seems a bit much for one play, it is and could use some trimming, but delving into the true situation and giving it a broad comic interpretation is imaginative and mostly entertaining. There is an abundance of acting, writing and directing skills in this colorful production. At the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at The West Side YMCA, 10 West 64th Street. Reviewed October 12. 2018.