So, I attended Seattle Repertory Theater's first preview last evening of Opus, Michael Hollinger's play about a highly neurotic and dysfunctional string quartet. I suspected the story of Opus to be partly inspired by the break up of the Audubon String Quartet. Anyone who idealizes the so-called privileged life of a quartet player might treat themselves to one of these performances, although if you're a musician, it's annoying to find that the roles are played by non-musicians. You'd think there would be actors also trained as instrumentalists, and thus able to portray the characters in a realistic manner. Adding to the lack of hand movements over the violin, viola and cello fingerboards was the consistent mispronunciation of Concertgebouw, one of Europe's most famous concert halls. The quartet used tacky black binders, like the sort you find at school orchestras, rather than actual music scores propped on their wire rimmed stands, and the sound system had minor glitches. But, like the first violinist of the fictitious Lazara String Quartet, played by Allen Fitzpatrick, maybe I'm being uptight.
There were some fine moments of comic relief, and the Lazara Quartet portrayed the idiosyncrasies of their counterparts with flare. My favorite character is Dorian, the squishy violist with endearing issues, played by Todd Jefferson Moore. Dorian and first violinist Elliott have suffered a tumultuous romantic break-up, though Dorian still wears Elliott's underwear. The quartet infighting continues, with finger pointing and a blame game over dynamics and intonation. Divo Elliott suffers a meltdown after being criticized and storms out of a recording session of Beethoven Opus 131.
Dorian, now off his meds and in full-blown mania, is replaced by young pretty Grace (actress Chelsea Rives) for a performance at the White House. Dorian and Elliott's parting of the ways has resulted in Dorian's having to return his precious viola to the quartet. Grace now has the coveted instrument under her dainty chin. (Heart breaking, huh?) Alan, the shlumpy-looking second violinist (Shawn Belyea), does more than make eye contact with blond, doe-eyed Grace. Cellist Carl (Charles Leggett), with troubles of his own, eats enough for the whole quartet. As art mirrors life, there's a nice twist in the final scene.