Virginia Woolf famously speculated about how Judith Shakespeare — hypothetical gifted sister of William — might have carved out a literary space of her own. Woolf deployed eloquent metaphor to underline the obstacles to equal artistic recognition women face. The Other Mozart, a new monodrama directed by Isaac Byrne, offers a far more literal proposition. Author-performer Sylvia Milo plays Nannerl, the real-life sister of Wolfgang Amadeus, who may have been an equally promising keyboard prodigy but was relegated by gender bias to a dull marriage and historical obscurity.
As the title fully and adequately conveys, Milo’s message is blunt. The Other Mozart has the feel of an educational museum demonstration, in part because the script relies, cloyingly, on an awkward present-tense narrative. (“My days fill up with church, household chores, practicing, teaching, lessons from Papa, music, music, music!”) Milo perches atop an 18-foot traditional white dress spread on the floor and littered with documents. But this design, which might have offered a dose of theatricality, isn’t actually used until the final moments; it serves more like an Exhibit A.
An announcement before the performance advises that “this story is based on facts” and that certain stories get overlooked in history. But it’s hard to have confidence in a documentary that quotes but rarely identifies sources, while portraying Nannerl more as a mouthpiece than personality. The Other Mozart turns into an overlong recital, all theme and no variation — something no Mozart, male or female, would abide.