Vermont Stage Company in Burlington has opened their season with a terrific production of Michael Hollinger's play OPUS. Mr.Hollinger, a violinist turned playwright, has written an insightful play about the tensions and conflicts among the members of a world-class string quartet. As they prepare for a concert at the White House, they must also deal with replacing one of their founding members, who has dropped out and disappeared.
Jenny C. Fulton has created a simple set consisting of four black chairs, four black collapsible music stands, a couple of vases of flowers and a wonderful backdrop of music manuscript, beautifully painted by Jeffrey Modereger. Her costumes are simple and appropriate.
The lighting, designed by John B. Forbes, is effective, especially on the backdrop during the White House concert. Joel Abbott's sound is excellent and the music includes recordings of the Vertigo String Quartet supplied by the Arden Theatre Company, the original producer.
As for the onstage playing, music coach David Gusakov has wisely eschewed dealing with fingering and has concentrated on accurate bowing. We can accept that the actors are actually playing.
Speaking of the actors, this is an exceptionally strong and well-balanced cast. Taryn Noelle is quietly strong yet vulnerable as Grace, the newcomer. As Alan, the youngest member of the quartet, Craig Maravich gives a well-modulated performance as an instinctive peace-maker and has a nice comedic touch. He powerfully delivers one of the best closing lines I've heard in some time. Jack Bradt gives a good acerbic edge to Carl, a cellist dealing with his family and his illness.
Ethan T. Bowen as the unpredictable Dorian gives a terrific multi-faceted performance. He's the embodiment of the gifted musician who lives for his art, but has difficulty functioning in life. As Elliot, the 1st violinist, Wayne Tetrick gives us a picture of ego and manipulation that has gotten out of control. As one of the characters says to him, "You're not good enough to be unpredictable." These five actors all give strong three-dimensional performances.
Director Jason Jacobs has directed OPUS with a sure hand. The excellent staging, always tricky in three-quarter round, provides a good view of the action from all sides. Most importantly, he's helped his fine cast understand and convey the complex characters.
Playwright Hollinger has written a fascinating play laced with humor that explores the complex relationships of musicians to their work, their lives and each other.
On a scale of one to five the Vermont Stage Company's production of OPUS gets
five ferry boats. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.