January 20, 2011 in Features

Drama strikes a chord in Interplayers’ ‘Opus’

By The Spokesman-Review

From left, Bethany D. Hart plays Grace, John Oswald plays Elliot, Patrick Treadway plays Dorian, Dave Rideout plays Carl and Tony Caprile plays Alan in Interplayers’ production of “Opus.”
(Full-size photo)

If you go


When: Preview tonight at 7:30; regular run begins Friday and continues through Feb. 5. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday and Jan. 29 and Feb. 5

Where: Interplayers Professional Theatre, 174 S. Howard St.

Cost: $12 to $22

Call: (509) 455-7529 or TicketsWest outlets (800-325-SEAT, www.ticketswest.com)

Pennsylvania playwright Michael Hollinger knows the world of chamber music. He was training as a classical violist at Oberlin Conservatory, when, at age 22, he decided to switch to theater.

He’s now an acclaimed playwright – and a large portion of that acclaim is due to his 2006 play, “Opus,” which will open at Interplayers this weekend.

It’s about the fictional Lazara String Quartet, which undergoes a string of crises as it prepares for a White House performance. It has fired one violist and hired another one, a young woman.

Various personal dramas interrupt rehearsals, and then there’s the considerable drama inherent in simply producing music.

The play intersperses rehearsal scenes – in which the actors play to a recorded soundtrack that includes Beethoven’s Opus 131 – with flashbacks to the events that led up to the firing of the brilliant but unstable violist, Dorian.

“ ‘Opus’ considers the matter of music making with an intimate, appraising eye, showing us the sweat, the drudgery and the delicate balance of personalities that lie behind the creation of a seemingly effortless performance,” wrote New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood in 2007.

In a 2007 Playbill interview, Hollinger said he set out to write “a chamber play about chamber musicians, composing a kind of music with the voices of the characters.”

You certainly don’t have to be a musician, or even a classical music fan, to be fascinated by the group dynamics. Isherwood calls it a play about “sex, drugs and chamber music,” although he does say that the sex is mostly just talked about and the drugs are mostly medicinal.

Hollinger, a Villanova University theater professor, infused the play with themes that go beyond the world of music.

“It seems to me, if it were just about a quartet, it would be a very limited world view,” he told Playbill. “… The title, you know, ‘Opus,’ it’s about work. What we leave behind us when we’re done.”

“Opus” had its world premiere at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia and won that city’s 2006 Barrymore Award for outstanding new play.

Interplayers’ production is directed by Jadd Davis, who is familiar with the world of music. He’s a well-known singer in the region, as well as an actor and director.

The cast includes John Oswald as Elliot, on first violin; Tony Caprile as Alan, on second violin; Patrick Treadway as Dorian, on viola; Dave Rideout as Carl, on cello; and Bethany D. Hart as Grace, on viola.

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