City Paper is not for tourists
Re: Behind-the-scenes art-world stories, see above. Whether you’ll want to see the Washington Stage Guild’s Opus will depend on your reverence for chamber music, your tolerance for dishy squabbling among those who make it, and your appetite for tidy little relationship-revenge dramas. Playwright Michael Hollinger, a Washington Stage Guild favorite-in-waiting—his funny monks-gone-Enron comedy Incorruptible only made his uninspired Hemingway homage An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf the more disappointing—dips into the rehearsal rooms of the world-class string quartet in Opus. Dialogue consciously mimics the effortless musical handoffs such ensembles excel at and there’s a plot that owes at least a little to the real-life meltdowns of a couple of famous quartets. It’s a smart if not terribly substantial little drama, and Steven Carpenter’s nicely paced 90-minute production makes a decent enough case for it. The tendency of his performers to lean a little obviously on the lyrical may account for the evening’s slightly artsy-fartsy feel, or maybe that’s to do with the making-a-documentary device that requires the members of the fictional Lazara Quartet to pontificate now and again about what makes the string quartet such a precious and rarefied thing. Either way, the play’s markedly less stuffy when it leaves aside the musico-philosophical musings and messes about among the human foibles of its characters: Ritchie Porter as the frazzled family-guy cellist wondering whether his cancer will stay in remission, Kryztov Lindquist as the pissy artiste violinist wondering whether his volatile ex-lover has committed suicide, Carl Randolph as the second violin wondering whether he’ll be able to keep it in his pants with the new violist looking all nervously sexy, Kathleen Coons doing that jumpy fawn thing as the newbie in question. R. Scott Williams rounds out the cast as Dorian, the ousted and probably certifiable string player she’s replacing—and while it’s neither a genuinely revelatory meditation on art nor an irredeemably salacious bit of classically scored soap opera, Opus is put together deftly enough to feel ever so slightly like a guilty pleasure.