I wrapped my Christmas/New Year’s break by taking in a performance of The Pianist of Willesden Lane at Berkeley Rep. It’s the story of Lisa Jura, as played by her pianist daughter, Mona Golabek. Over the course of 90 minutes, Mona portrays her mother as a teenage Jewish girl intently focused on her piano studies as the shadow of Nazism begins to darken Vienna. As her family’s safety becomes more and more tenuous, her parents manage to acquire a coveted space for the talented Lisa aboard the Kindertransport, which whisked her to Holland, then on to London. Music plays a huge role in the play, as it did in Lisa Jura’s life – the center of the stage is dominated by a Steinway concert grand, and the Grieg Piano Concerto becomes a major character unto itself. It’s Lisa’s favorite piece, and it bookends the performance. Mona Golabek plays beautifully, and successfully weaves in the classical music so important to her mother during the war years. We hear a beautiful, never-sadder Clair de Lune played by a young Lisa the day before she departs on the Kindertransport; we hear the thundering chords of the Grieg Piano Concerto go head to head against the terrifying explosions of the Blitz as Lisa’s hostel crumbles; we hear Mona Golabek channel the great Myra Hess playing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring during one of her beloved afternoon concerts at the National Gallery. “The Pianist of Willesden Lane’ is finishing up its extended run, and the remaining performances are sold out, so you may not have the chance to see it at the Berkeley Rep. My recommendation is to read Mona Golabek’s 2003 book The Children of Willesden Lane; Beyond the Kindertransport; A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival, co-written with Lee Cohen, on which the play is based.