Play review: Opus

A play accompanied by a quartet from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at the historic Hilbert Circle Theatre—I was intrigued. A play reading? I had never attended one and was unsure how it was different from a play.

Kind of the same but kind of different. There is no set. The actors refer to scripts as they read their lines but clearly they know the material well, as if this is a last dry run before they go out on stage to perform the play. The stage is lined with chairs, where they retire to when their character is not speaking. Another person seated to the side reads any stage directions needed to place the scene in time or space.

In some respect witnessing a reading is like listening to a radio play or reading a book. In these cases, there is no stage set. The words create the scene in your mind. However, watching a play reading gives you extra info from the facial expressions and body languages of the actors.

Opus sketches the drama of being in a string quartet. The Lazara Quartet is down one member. The members have just decided to offer the position to someone. Within one week they will be performing a difficult piece at the White House. The play covers the time from immediately after the audition of the new member to just after the White House performance. Interspersed are flashbacks about the former member of the quartet that was fired and replaced.

This production of Opus was a little bit unusual. Opus, being a play about contentious relations between members of a professional string quartet, also contains music played by a string quartet. Typically the music is not live. But for this production, the music in Opus was performed by four members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. A play with music but not a musical. This production of Opus bucked easy categorization.

Opus as it was performed at the Hilbert Circle Theatre was a thoroughly enjoyable and professional production. The acting was superb, the script witty, and the music moving. This production was a one-night affair put on by SiteLines in partnership with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

SiteLines, to quote their literature, “creates pop-up theater events matching themes, setting and subject to just about any interest group”—such as plays for music lovers at the symphony. I’m intrigued. What is their next production?

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