A new drama by award-winning playwright Jake Broder, UNRAVELLED made its virtual premiere on February 25, 2021. Sponsored by the Global Brain Health Institute (University of California, San Francisco) and Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), UNRAVELLED is the true story of Canadian painter Anne Adams (1940-2007) and her eerie connection to French composer Maurice Ravel (1854-1937). Their fate seemed intertwined as it grows clear that both were in the early stages of primary progressive aphasia (a form of frontotemporal dementia), a rare brain disease.
Renowned scientist Anne Adams (Lucy Davenport) was in her fifties and at the height of her career when she suddenly lost interest in science and began to compulsively paint. From relatively simple themes (houses and strawberries), she became obsessed with Ravel’s famous symphonic masterpiece, Bolero. Instantly, her painting went in a completely new direction as she converted Ravel’s notes, bar by bar, into brilliant design and color which became her most famous work, “Unravelling Bolero.”
All to the initial disbelief by and later confusion of her faithful husband Robert (Rob Nagle), who found himself married to a women whose sense of self was labile and rapidly changing. Anne was now able to convert sounds and numbers into visual checkerboards of lush color. She eschewed her gray wardrobe and began to dress in vivid color. And the sex rang all of Robert’s bells. Regardless of the positive changes, however, Robert knew that something was very wrong. But it was not until Anne became the patient of neurologist Dr. Bruce Miller (Leo Marks) that Ann’s condition – and the strange connection between Anne and Ravel – slowly emerged. All happening as Robert tried his level best to love and protect her – even if he no longer knew her. Even if she stopped communicating with him.
The three principals – and most especially Lucy Davenport – do an excellent and poignant job of conveying human reactions to the miraculous, and yet also melancholy truths that slowly come to light. Skillful director Nike Doukas helms the production with compassion and respect for the humanity it reflects. UNRAVELLING BOLERO is a sympathetic study of people facing the unthinkable with grace and forbearance. The focus is on the individuals at the center of the conflict. As such, this is an internal exploration of people and how they change and adapt – very probably the perfect subject matter for a streamed presentation.
The creative team features the adept skills of Corwin Evans (production designer), Jeff Gardner (sound designer), and Bree Pavey (production coordinator). UNRAVELLED will appeal the an audience of science-minded types – but its appeal will extend far beyond to include anyone who has ever faced the challenges of a severe illness in the family, undue marital stress, and even those who simply enjoy the marvelous adaptability of the human heart. This is a production not to be missed.
UNRAVELLED began streaming at 4 p.m. (PST) on Thursday, February 23, and remains available on demand through March 31, 2021. Two live seminars featuring experts in the field (including UCSF Memory and Aging Center Director Dr. Miller, who diagnosed Adams) will take place on 2/25/21 and 3/3/21 immediately following the stream. This is a free presentation. To join the audience, go online.