Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of Aging

Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of Aging

Perhaps you are one of those people who cringe at opera's lengthy runtimes, rambling plot lines, and the need to read English subtitles rather than pay attention to the overall magnificent scenes being paraded before you. Then again, perhaps you are among the select group of aficionados who relish the pomp and splendor created by opera singers whose voices reach to the heavens while performing in the popular operas of Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Wagner, and Verdi. Certainly the four characters in Ronald Harwood's play QUARTET count themselves among not only the greatest operatic performers but also as some of the greatest fans of the genre to ever tread the boards in their glory days.

Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of AgingWe meet Cecily (Shirley Hatton), Reggie (James Rice) and Wilfred (Gregg Lawrence), all once well-known opera singers who now, in their later years, reside in a country home for retired musicians. Each has their own set of eccentricities: Cecily's has bouts of dementia during which she welcomes others back from Karachi or other foreign lands they have not visited, Wilfred cannot stop ogling Cecily's "perfect" breasts or objectifying women even though it's apparent he is all talk and no action, while Reggie breaks serious discussions by outbursts of ranting at Angelique, the Nurse who refuses to give him marmalade with breakfast.

Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of AgingThese three friends sang opera together in the past and enjoy reminiscing about "the good days" when their Verdi quartet was the talk of the town. Now, as the days march on, the house is abuzz with preparations for the concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday in which residents perform his work as well as share stories of performance days past. But when Cecily overhears that everyone is talking about a new arrival, her focus changes from listing to their best-selling CD to finding out just who will be moving into the latest vacant room.

That person, it turns out, is Jean Horton (Mary-Margaret Lewis), a diva of the first Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of Agingorder and the one-time wife of Reggie. But when she arrives in the den where the other three spend their days, it becomes clear that Jean and Reggie have not spoken to each other since their quickie marriage ended, and since Jean refuses to sing with them at the concert, how will the quartet decide to honor Verdi, or 'Joe Green" as prankster Wilfred points out. But as we know, the show must go on and both heartbreaking confessions and laughs galore at their own expense fuel QUARTET into a riotously fun look at the foibles of aging and the need to always remain in the spotlight, no matter what.

As the four manage to agree that the only way to perform Verdi's incredibly difficult quartet from Rigoletto at his birthday celebration would be to lip sync it to their original recording, knowing the sound they hear in their ears will be the same as in the past. Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of AgingTheir next step is to decide on costumes, pulled from old trunk once Jean is fine with its placement in the room, much to Reggie's dismay, though greeted with hoots of laughing from the audience. Diana Mann's costumes, perhaps form the many Shakespeare by the Sea performances done by Little Fish during summers, add just the right touch, once a few alterations take place right in front of us. And I can tell you that during the final scene in which their lip sync performance takes place, you will really believe this quartet could still perform it live, given how authentic their perfect miming of the track and its characters turns out to be!

Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of AgingKudos go out the director Margaret Schugt and her four brilliant actors whose individual character personalities are on constant display from moment to moment as we watch them make peace, make waves, tell some off-color jokes, recall smells and music memories while working on NSP (no self pity), this quartet reminds everyone that life is for the living, especially when, as Reggie reminds us, age allows us to forget what's not important anymore. And always quickly heed the operatic announcement of lunch being served or all the mashed potatoes will be gone.

Review: This QUARTET Reminds Us that Life is for the Living Despite the Foibles of AgingQUARTET continues through April 8, 2018 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, with one matinee on Sunday, April 1 at 2:00pm with a cast and crew talkback afterwards. Tickets are $27 regular, $25 seniors, $15for those 25-and-under with code "Hipster") and may be purchased in advance by calling the Box Office at (310) 512-6030 or via text to (424) 226-6030. Performances take place at Little Fish Theatre at 777 S. Centre St., San Pedro, CA 90731. For more information, visit www.littlefishtheatre.org

Photo credit: Mickey Elliot

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