Most touring theatrical productions that come to the Sacramento region are Broadway-style spectaculars presented in the humongous Community Center Theatre. But the Mondavi Center occasionally brings in a different kind of show: smaller productions that operate on a more intellectual wavelength, presented in the Mondavi’s 250-seat Studio Theatre.These little shows often are overshadowed by the big orchestra concerts the Mondavi generally hosts. But these small shows are usually quite good, so let’s pause to consider this weekend’s performances of Score. It’s described as a “theater performance” rather than a play, with a script based on six lectures about music and the creative process that Leonard Bernstein delivered at Harvard in 1973. Obie-winning actor Tom Nelis (who’s portrayed personalities as diverse as Marshall McLuhan and Oscar Wilde on New York stages) plays the conductor. It’s directed by Anne Bogart (winner of two Obies) and produced by the SITI Company of New York.
We haven’t seen the show—it opened Wednesday night after we’d gone to press—but its track record makes us curious. Score premiered in 2002 at Louisville’s Humana Festival (the launch pad for many new plays). The Chicago Sun-Times said, “(It evokes) Bernstein, the brilliantly protean, highly charismatic, wildly egotistical and dashingly handsome man who was as brilliant a teacher as he was a musician … the graceful actor masterfully suggests the musician’s bristling intellect, fervent artistic passion and furious life force. As he does so, the music of Mahler, Beethoven, Copland and others subtly underscores his verbal riffs … in this 90-minute tour de force.” The Columbus Dispatch wrote, “Score offers flamboyant flashes of the showman; the educator; the popularizer; the activist; and Bernstein, Bernstein, Bernstein, the ego-obsessed charmer and bon vivant.”