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Arts & Culture

Bob Goepfert Reviews "The Band's Visit" At Proctors

The company of "The Band's Visit" North American Tour
Matthew Murphy
The company of "The Band's Visit" North American Tour

SCHENECTADY - “The Band’s Visit” which is at Proctors Theatre through Sunday, January 5, is a special theatrical experience. No matter how much you love it, and I do very much, you understand why it would not appeal to everyone.

It tells a story at its own deliberate slow pace. There are no high energy dance scenes. Costumes are stark; the set even more so. Conflict is at a minimum and not everything turns out the way you’d wish.

That said, I don’t think anyone would regret seeing the musical that seems more like a play with music. It’s a narrow mind that would fail to see the beauty of this almost ephemeral piece of theater.

“The Band’s Visit” is like bringing a poem to life on stage. It forces you to see the beauty of lives that exist in a void and relate to people whose future is as bleak as their present. It gives you the basic information, trusting you to absorb the beauty and sadness of lives that lack fulfillment.

It’s 100-minutes long, and yet, by play’s end no one or anything appears to have changed. Somehow you leave the theater hoping that the lives of those on stage might be better because of the strangers that spent a single night amongst them.

“The Band’s Visit” is about a small Egyptian military band that arrives in a remote Israeli village by mistake. They are taken in by the locals and the various interactions illustrate the magic that can happen when strangers befriend strangers.

Another thing absent from “The Band’s Visit” are songs you sing leaving the theater. There are none.

But don’t be deceived, this could be David Yazbek’s finest score. Yazbek is best known for his clever, more rambunctious shows like “The Full Monty” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” but this work is more sensitive, cerebral and beautiful.

On your way home, you might not be humming one of the dozen or so songs from the show. But the next time you see a middle-aged woman sitting alone, staring over a cup of coffee, you might remember the song “Omar Sharif.” Or when you see an older couple talking on a bench avoiding eye contact, “Something Different” might resonate in your consciousness.

This is music that lingers within your subconscious. It is a score that is integrated so deeply to the emotions of the moment, it becomes a ghostly presence.

The book has the same qualities of the score of “The Band’s Visit.” It is so human, it fails to register the submerged emotions of the characters. The dialogue sounds so ordinary it seldom reflects the profound wisdom it contains. And, because a moment is so intense, silence is the only way to express a feeling - which makes the pacing feel awkward.

All true. But, the sincerity of the story, the honesty of the acting, the beauty of the music, along with the direction that keeps the 100-minute presentation fly-by, makes “The Band’s Visit” a show that should be seen, heard and absorbed.

“The Band’s Visit” at Proctors in Schenectady through Sunday. For tickets 518-346-6204 or proctors.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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