By: James Navarrete
Ludwig and Bertie, written by Douglas Lackey, gives us insight into the relationship of two of our greatest twentieth century philosophers, the younger Jewish Ludwig Wittgenstein and the 20-year-older atheist Bertrand Russell.
Bertie, played smartly by Stan Buturla, is the wise old professor at Cambridge when he meets the almost half-his-age young student Ludwig, poignant, headstrong and hungry for more knowledge, insight and truth, played passionately by Connor Bond.
Beginning in Vienna, Alexander Bartinieff’s simple, dark yet evocative stage lighting sets the stage. We are first introduced to the young boy Ludwig played brilliantly by Hayden Bercy. He has four siblings, three of whom have committed suicide.
We meet the young man Ludwig at Cambridge in 1911 where he hands Bertie his manuscripts. The seed is planted and Bertie immediately recognizes the genius of his new pupil as he shares his thoughts with his fellow Cambridge philosopher, G.E. Moore, played by the talented Pat Dwyer.
Directed by Alexander Harrington, this play is like a well-choreographed stage dance. The players move seamlessly from scene to scene and the parts are played with just the right amount of balance of passion, humor and controlled sensibility.
Jon DeGaetano’s set design is simple yet practical. The blackboards are used both to illustrate a story as well as framing the dialogue. The costumes by Anthony Paul-Cavaretta lend themselves to the era in which the story is taking place, from the classrooms, to the bedroom and even during war! Lady Ottoline Morrell, played by Alyssa Simon, always looks ravishing in her gowns and evokes a proper upper-crust upbringing. The lighting does not distract from the performers but does spotlight each storyline nicely.
I enjoyed the well-executed boat ride Ludwig shares with his love interest David Pinsent, played by Daniel Yaiullo. I would have liked to see more of this relationship unfold and more of Mr. Yaiullo’s subtle, soft yet effective delivered performance.
Ludwig and Bertie have many exchanges of thoughts as well as mainly disagreements or views. However, what I most took away from the relationship of student to professor or “mental Father,” as Ludwig refers to Bertie, is not just the differences in age, religion, thoughts, struggles and challenges, but the openness and respect that each has for the other.
We live in a time where opposites do not see eye to eye much less try to hear and understand where the other is coming from. We have seen time and again an older generation which is set in its ways and not open to challenges, new insights or other people’s ideas.
Ludwig and Bertie show us that as different as we all may be, whether by religion, age, or even sexual orientation, we can learn from each other. Be more open to a bigger discussion and sometimes change our minds over things, as if in fact there is a rhinoceros in the room or not.
This thought-provoking play answers that question as well as shedding light into this historic duo’s relationship. See this discussion and more in Douglas Lackey’s new play, Ludwig and Bertie.
Ludwig and Bertie (through October 13, 2019)
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit http://www.ludwigbertie.com
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes including one intermission