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Tantallon Community Players Quartet

By • Oct 10th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Quartet
Tantallon Community Players: (Info) (Web)
Harmony Hall Regional Center, Ft. Washington, MD
Through October 13th
3:00 with intermission
$15/$12 Seniors, Students
Reviewed October 5th, 2013

Beautiful souls search for the meaning of life when the means to ply their art is taken from them by time and senility. In a retirement home for aging musicians and opera singers, the play shows what happens to those huge personalities when they are permanently exiled from the stage. The madness and mayhem this show displays is both wonderfully exciting, and dramatically realistic.

Director Charla Rowe lovingly adapted the script so that a cast of 16 could take over all the zany characters initially only mentioned in the original script. The ensemble brought the retirement home to life, making the most of every opportunity to leave a hilarious impression.

The main cast of the “quartet” mentioned in the title of the play is Reggie, Wilf, Cissy and Jean. Each has their tale of the glory days in the spotlight, but none more so than Jean, who has just checked into the retirement home. Jean, played by the commanding Lauren Bloom, seems to be the most alone, after being the most famous in the past. As Cissy and Wilf try to cheer her up, Jean only retreats further into her diva persona, trying to keep them at an arm’s length. Meanwhile, Wilf, played by Lance Adell, is trying to get over the death of his wife by attempting to seduce any and all women who cross his path. His hilariously over the top antics are a source of constant laughs.

The one who really steals the show, however, was Cissy, played by Vicki Cline. She is a sweet opera singer who has gone completely loopy in her old age. Her attempts to patch the growing rifts between the other members of the quartet are both adorable and sympathetic.

The set was lovely and old-fashioned, with multiple doors and two lovely staircases. One could really believe that it was a retirement home, and the baby grand piano placed dead center of the stage showed the prominence of music in the lives of the retirees. The costumes, while eclectic, showed each character’s personality via their sense of dated style.

All in all, the show was well put together. Though the plot slowed and sagged a little in places, the actors always held it together, and smoothed the wrinkles with their energy and vivacity. The addition of some songs in the second act made the show feel completely rounded, as you got to see the way music mattered to these characters and how they each dealt with their loss of prowess.

The final product was a show with all the mania and heart that one could stand in an evening, and the audience left with a sweet feeling that art could be just as true in the twilight years of an artist’s life.

Director’s Note

This play about aging opera singers appeals to me on several levels. I am not in love with opera, but I found that some of the world’s most during music comes from the incredibly arduous traditions of learning to sing and perform its demanding roles. The first times I heard the aria “Un bel di” from Madama Butterfly and the flower duet from Lakme I was moved to tears. My husband’s musical tastes usually run to Jim Croce and Livingston Taylor, yet he called me from Warsaw at 4 a.m., my time, to marvel after hearing “Nessun Dorma” for the first time when he attended a performance of Turandot in 1991.

Quartet especially resonates with me because it relates so deeply to the lives of all aging (and aged) musicians. I empathize greatly with Wilf, Reginald, Cissy and Jean who have spent their lives in music and now are in a retirement home for musicians. In fact, I thought about taking one of the parts myself — but that was more irony that I can stand at my age.

There are somewhat stark differences between the written play and the brilliant movie resulting from the collaboration of the play’s author, Sir Ronald Harwood, and Dustin Hoffman, the director of the recent film version. I was enthralled by how talented the “real” retired musicians were as they took various small roles in the screen version. I particularly loved the credit sequence as it reveals the music backgrounds of many of the players. Howard’s work with Hoffman fully developed the strength of the play’s dialogue and underlying meanings about aging and art; my directors vision stays faithful to the original version while hopefully emphasizing the humanity and joy of Hoffman’s film realization.

The latter stages of a performing career must be especially difficult for a Joan Sutherland, a Beverly Sills, or a Maria Callas. In their later years, opera stars inevitably lose the vocal quality to hit the same time gymnastics that would meet the strangest stringent expectations of opera boss and unforgiving music critics. Imagine the courage it takes to face those listeners was with each performance as you reach and pass your peak years.

It is far easier to be an actor or cabaret singer. Just reflect on the careers of Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney. But in all the genres, art at all ages illuminates your life and the lives of others. If you want to perform, give it your best shot! Channel Betty White! As Dylan Thomas said, “do not go gentle into that good night,… rage rage against the dying of the light.”

Director Charla Rowe

Cast

  • Wilf: Lance Adell
  • Cissy: Vicki Cline
  • Reggie: Kurt Anderson Vie
  • Jean Horton: Lauren Bloom
  • Bobby Swanson: Doug Graupman
  • Doctor Coggin: Zaneta Walthour
  • Cedric Livingston: Robert Rausch
  • Matron: Nan Reiner
  • Vivian: Carol Scheer
  • Lillian: Patti Farmer
  • Frank: John Scheer
  • Angelique: Kitty Harger
  • Il Duce: Larry Carbaugh
  • Harold: Art Greene
  • Ann: Amira Young
  • Tony Talbot: LeVar Betts

Crew

  • Director: Charla Rowe
  • Producer: Rikki Howe
  • Stage Manager: Sheryl Fry
  • Crew: Ian Jenkins, Angelo Cline
  • Music Consultant: LaVar Betts
  • Set Design: Charla Rowe
  • Lighting Design: Sheryl Fry
  • Sound Design: Ron Rowe
  • Costumes: Linda Swann
  • Hair/Makeup: Shemika Berry

Disclaimer: Tantallon Community Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has a great love of the process of theater and the creation of art that has led her into working both behind the scenes and onstage. Her career includes working for many years providing sound and lights for both professional and amateur shows as well as makeup work for a feature film. At college, she specialized in makeup to earn her theater degree, and discovered a love for directing and playwrighting. She's also been a nominee for the DC area theater WATCH awards for her work with the company of The Producers with The Arlington Players.

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