THE PIANO TUNER written and performed by Robert Astle, consulting director Leah Cherniak. Presented by Alianak in association with VideoCabaret at the Cameron (408 Queen West). Runs to April 17, Thursday-Friday 7:30 pm, Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$20, Sunday pwyc-$10. 416-703-1725. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Music has the ability to arouse powerful emotional memories, but in The Piano Tuner , Robert Astle 's sometimes moving, sometimes overstated one-person show, a piano itself becomes the vehicle for a flood of reminiscences.
Over the course of the show, Bob, a blind piano tuner, works on - or rather, interacts with - an initially silent upright instrument. As he opens up the piano and reveals various things that have been placed or dropped in it, he similarly opens up his own sad history of love and loss.
There's an easygoing warmth to much of Astle's work as an actor, though he sometimes inflates the performance to an unnecessarily strained intensity, a pitch that's not needed in the intimate Cameron House space. I also wish he weren't as conscious, in a sighted way, of his space.
The story may be predictable, but the writing itself has a small-scale, nicely detailed quality and moments of charm. The same charm can be found in Henry Kucharzyk 's score, part recognizable melodies and part dramatic resonances of Bob's past.
Though the performance ranks as a solo effort, it wouldn't work without the personality-filled prepared piano, devised by Astle and Kucharzyk, that's full of surprises, including puppets, illuminated signs and pieces of clothing. And when's the last time you saw a boxing/wrestling match between a man and a musical instrument?
Shakespeare said that all the world's a stage; in this case, all of Bob's world fits into a packed piano.