Behind the scenes with a string quartet in Florida Studio Theatre's Opus.
By Kay Kipling
It’s not every day that you see a cast onstage where everyone seems ideal for their roles, but such is the happy case with Florida Studio Theatre’s Opus.
This Michael Hollinger play about a well-known string quartet roiled by division actually features five, not four actors. Four of the five have been playing together, if not always in blissful harmony, for some time. But when one of them, the unstable Dorian (Christian Kohn), disappears not long before they’re scheduled to play at a televised White House performance, the others must scramble to find a replacement. That turns out to be a young Asian woman (Susan Hyon), who herself is torn between playing in the intimacy of a quartet or heading to Pittsburgh to for a more secure position with that city’s orchestra.
Luckily, you don’t have to be that knowledgeable about classical music to relate to Opus (although musicians will undoubtedly take particular pleasure at some points). While it’s useful to know a few musical terms, those that are bandied about onstage are clear in their meaning, and the passion these players have for their music translates into the kind of emotion anyone might feel for their life’s work.
In addition, the actors have worked with Sarasota Orchestra concertmaster Dan Jordan to ensure that their bowing looks real. (Their fingers don’t move over the stringed instruments’ frets, but after a while you really don’t notice that anymore.) So as they sit in their chairs getting ready for their big moment, you do often have the feeling you just walked into a real rehearsal—complete with the strife and disagreements you’d expect.
Under Richard Hopkins’ direction, the ensemble works beautifully together. Jeffrey Plunkett as Elliot, the neurotic half of a romantic couple that included the missing Dorian, is completely believable and remains sympathetic throughout even his meanest moments. Kohn is likewise convincing as a musician dealing with a mental illness who nevertheless has a gift the others envy: the ability to instinctively know what works, as if he’s channeling dead composers.
Scott Giguere as Alan and Ron Siebert as Carl, who’s holding a secret, seem the more laidback of the group, but there are surprises in store, including a particularly shocking one that climaxes the play. And Hyon adds just the right blend of hesitation and confidence as a newbie to the quartet’s musical and emotional mix.
There is both wit and perception to Hollinger’s play, which clocks in at a quickly moving 85 minutes or so (no intermission). Opus continues onstage at FST through Jan. 30; call 366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org for tickets.
Ron Siebert, Jeffrey Plunkett, Susan Hyon, Scott Giguere and Christian Kohn in Florida Studio Theatre’s Opus.