Landing a role in Curtain Call Theatre’s production of Michael Hollinger’s “Opus” requires the cast to do a little extra performing in a way they’re not quite used to.
All five actors in the cast portray talented classical musicians in the play, which opens Friday night and runs through Nov. 17 at Curtain Call. At times during the play, they are seated with their instruments, and appear to be playing them, but they’re not says director Barbara Richards.
“Our actors are not musicians, and we’re not trying to fool anybody,” she said. “The conceit is that they look like they’re playing them, and the audience will realize that. It’s obvious that the sound is coming through speakers, but we’ve been working with some wonderful musicians to help our actors. They all look like they know how to handle their instruments.”
Curtain Call artistic director Carol Max saw the play in Florida last year and was eager to bring it to the Capital Region, Richards said.
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Nov. 17; performance times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Thursday
HOW MUCH: $23
MORE INFO: 877-7529, www.curtaincalltheatre.com
“It’s a wonderful play that Carol discovered, and we both really fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s about the ups and downs of this quartet as they’re preparing for a White House concert. It’s a fascinating story, and quite different from what our Curtain Call audience is used to.”
The pressure on the quartet is amped up because the group had to replace one of its key components, a violinist named Dorian played by Paul Dederick.
“It’s about their love and dedication for the craft of music, but the addition of a new member puts a lot more pressure on them than usual,” said Richards. “The story is how that extra pressure affects their relationship with each other.”
The new member, a woman named Grace, is played by Elizabeth Pietrangelo, while also in the cast are Kris Anderson as Elliot, Isaac Newberry as Alan and Chris Foster as Carl.
“It was a challenge to get the cast right in terms of age and matching up,” said Richards. “It is a real ensemble piece, and during casting we finally felt like we had the right balance and people that connected well with each other. The cast is great, and they really look like they belong together as a quartet.”
“Opus” was first produced in New York in 2007, when it got a favorable review from New York Times critic Charles Isherwood.
“It’s a drama, but the characters bring out a lot of the humor in the show, and it’s also a fascinating look at the musical world and how hard they work at what they do,” said Richards. “These musicians are like athletes, and the play is a microcosm for human relations. Carol is always looking for great stories that touch people and this play definitely does that.”
At the Colonial Little Theatre in Johnstown, director Lisa Pfeiffer is also in charge of an ensemble cast, but in “The Cemetery Club” the cast is dominated by women.
‘The Cemetery Club’
WHERE: Colonial Little Theatre, 1 Colonial Court, Johnstown
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 28
HOW MUCH: $12
MORE INFO: 762-4325, coloniallittletheatre.blogspot.com
A play by Ivan Menchell first produced in 1990 in New York and made into a Hollywood movie in 1993 with Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis and Diane Ladd, “The Cemetery Club” focuses on three longtime friends who meet regularly at their husbands’ grave sites.
“It’s a show I was hoping to star in one day, but since I had the chance to direct I thought I better jump at it,” said Pfeiffer, who has produced more than 50 shows and acted in more than 30 at the Colonial Little Theatre since 1978.
“It’s about three Jewish widows who meet on a monthly basis at their husbands’ graves. It’s about the importance of friendship, and moving at your own pace.”
Playing the three leads are Paula Brown-Weinstock as Ida, Nancy Radigan as Lucille and Ellie Fosmire as Doris. Rounding out the cast are Mark Finkle as Sam and Carol Russo as Mildred.
“When a male comes into the picture, he sort of upsets the apple cart,” said Pfeiffer. “He has an interest in one of the women, and that threatens the club.”
Pfeiffer has never seen a staged production of “The Cemetery Club,” and she doesn’t have much good to say about the movie version.
“I hated the movie; I thought it was very slow-paced,” she said. “I kept on thinking to myself that there were a lot of things you could do to pick up the pace and help it move along better. I haven’t seen a staged production of the play, but I have seen clips on YouTube, and I really love the script. It’s a very good story.”
As for directing, Pfeiffer said she needed a little push in that direction from colleague John Birchler.
“I thought I had a good eye for direction, but I always felt lousy at stagecraft so I was kind of reluctant to step up and direct,” she said.
“But John Birchler told me he would take care of my set. He’s done a lot of directing here and when he said he would paint and take care of the set I said, ‘OK.’ I’ve only dabbled in directing in the past, but I’m really liking it, with John’s help.”
‘Man of La Mancha’
WHERE: Not So Common Players, Shenendehowa HS East Little Theater (Moe Road Entrance)
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday,ew 7:30 p.m. Aug 25, 8 p.m. Aug. 26-27 and 2 p.m. Aug. 28
HOW MUCH: Free (sponsored by town of Clifton Park)
MORE INFO: 877-5648, 371-6681, notsocommonplayers.org
Also opening Friday night and running for two weekends will be the No So Common Players’ production of the classic Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.”
Directed by Frank Meredith, the production stars Shawn Morgan as Miguel Cervantes, Alonzo Quijana and the dauntless knight known as Don Quixote. Aldonza is played by Elisa Verb, and Norman Eick is Quixote’s sidekick, Sancho Panza.
Morgan has performed at numerous venues around the Capital Region, including a gig last summer as Franz Liebkind in the Park Playhouse production of “The Producers.” Verb is also a regular in community theater circles, having performed in “The Sleepy Chaperone” and “Nunsense” last season at the Schenectady Light Opera Company.
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