Monday, January 24, 2011

partial review of *Opus*

at Interplayers through Feb. 5

If a great artist stops loving other people, is he still a great artist? Do you have a worthwhile legacy if you created great art but everyone remembers you as an expletive?

Ultimately, Opus says no. But Michael Hollinger’s play about a classical quartet springs surprises along the way....

The play's four middle-aged guys (plus one female interloper) are like any bickering family of co-workers. They’re just trying to create good and beautiful things while putting up with one another’s absolutely infuriating flaws.

Flaws like the flighty, artsy, ineffable irritations of Dorian, the quartet’s violist (played here by Patrick Treadway). Dorian revels in music some days and is disgusted by it on others. With fingers fluttering near his forehead and a faraway look in his eye, Treadway delivers the opening scene’s paean to music’s beauty: “The whole thing rises,” he says, “floats together, falls back, arches upward, no one leading, no one following, it’s just … pulsating. Like it’s alive.” Cracking jokes about being off his meds, Treadway delivers all the facets of a man who sniffs and cuddles violins (he loves them so much) but who can, nevertheless, be such a pill sometimes.

As the group’s perfectionistic leader, John Oswald is fussy enough without needing to turn on the mad-scientist mannerisms. Yes, Elliott is high-strung, demanding and intense. But in a drama for five hands like this one — intimate, psychological, refined — the grimaces and grasping fingers seem too jarring. Yet in the hiring scene — allowing a new musician into what has been a closed circle of four egotists — Oswald also displays more than Elliott’s usual phony charm. It’s a rounded portrait, but with the darker corners etched too deeply....

The conclusion tips toward the melodramatic: Would the startling news really be delivered just before the big concert? And would the career-altering decision really be made immediately after it?

Opus, at least, is crammed with incidents — many of them comic, as we watch the bickering of a dysfunctional musical family. Director Jadd Davis could quicken some of the blackouts between those incidents, but it’s to his credit that the musical excerpts are performed realistically (and briefly) enough that we can easily imagine that we’re watching actual professional musicians....

Opus • Wed-Fri 7:30 pm, Sat 2 pm and 7:30 pm, through Feb. 5 • $18-$22; $13-$16, matinees; $10-$12, students and teachers • Interplayers • 174 S. Howard St. • • 455-PLAY

(Full review in Thursday's Inlander, or at Photo by Young Kwak: Dave Rideout as Carl, Bethany Hart as Grace.)

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