A Long-Dormant Play Joins the MS Movement Thanks to a Theatrical Duo in New York
It sounds like a Mel Brooks movie: Put on a play in New York to raise money for charity? But Anna Pond and David Lamberton pulled it off in September 2008 with a show called Duet for One.
“Miracle of miracles, we paid all our bills and actually raised about $3,000 for the New York City Chapter,” David said.
Duet for One, by British playwright Tom Kempinski, opened strong in London in 1980 but was virtually forgotten following a brief Broadway run starring Anne Bancroft and Max von Sydow in 1981 and an unsuccessful film version in 1986.
“Recently there seems to be renewed interest in it. I think it was a little ahead of its time in the way that it deals with the connection between depression and MS,” David said.
It’s the story of Stephanie Abrahams, a violinist who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the height of her career, and her psychiatrist Dr. Feldmann. Stephanie is modeled on cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who really did have MS.
David’s mother lives with progressive MS, and his brother Peter is a Rhode Island Chapter board member and Challenge Walk participant. For years David felt Duet for One deserved a bigger audience. He knew Anna from a theater company, asked if she would collaborate with him, and the two worked together for two years to produce their five-show run at the Lion Theatre, part of the famed Theatre Row complex.
Playing a psychiatrist, David spent much of his time on stage listening. “A lot of what Stephanie goes through in the play, I saw my mom go through. So it brought it back and it was a little difficult,” he said. “I could very much identify with her and see the frustration and anger.”
“It was enlightening and extremely painful to play — not an easy part to walk away from when you’re offstage,” Anna added. She was six weeks pregnant and extremely nauseated, which helped her imagine Stephanie’s pain.
The entire audience stayed for a talkback with psychiatrist Jennifer M. Finkel and neurologist Fred D. Lublin after the Saturday night performance.
“The money is great, but to have so many people stay around and be engaged, that was great too,” David said.
The duo hope Duet for One was the start of something big for Lamb Pond Productions: matching shows that need attention with causes that need support. David is a part-time English teacher and Anna is a nonprofit management consultant, and both wish they could spend more time acting.
“There’s Broadway, there’s Off Broadway, and then there’s the rest of us, who are working actors trying to find good quality artistic experiences not only to showcase our work but to be involved in something we care about,” Anna said.
Anyone with a potential project for Lamb Pond Productions is invited to call 212-721-1060.