By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The self-proclaimed leader is first violinist Elliot (Christian Lebano), a good musician but not a great one. On some level, he's aware of his limitations, which explains his childish petulance with the others for an interpretation he finds vulgar, when, in fact, the fault may be his. He clutches his role as lead violinist to his heart. It's all he has. This is partly why Dorian left. We see flashbacks in which it becomes apparent that Dorian was the superior musician and musicologist, deprived of an opportunity to soar by the tyrant, Elliot. We see all this in Lebano's streaks of haughtiness as Elliot, and in the twitches of Blinkoff's slightly unhinged, fastidious and transparently brilliant Dorian. And this is the kind of subtextual layering within the ensemble that makes Hollinger's play so appealing. They speak either in professional jargon or through sarcasm, but they never speak about the dynamics within the ensemble. Rather, they reveal it.
The tensions exacerbated by Elliot are mediated somewhat by cellist Carl, in a very wry performance by Gergory G. Giles. Then there's the second violinist, a gentle widower named Alan (Cooper Thornton), who finds himself romantically drawn to young Grace — a messy encumbrance in an ensemble.
"Did I tell you you look wonderful tonight?" Alan asks her before one of their appearances.
"No, and you're not going to," Carl snaps back before Grace can answer, enforcing the local zoning code for acceptable behavior.
What happens at play's end, after the White House appearance, could be Shakespearean, were it the story of a king rather than a little-known string quartet. But it's all there: The personal intrigue, democracy, hypocrisy and tyranny walking arm-in-arm. Sometimes in four or five people, you can see the whole world. And that Hollinger has pulled all that off in a somewhat minor key is no minor accomplishment.
OPUS | By MICHAEL HOLLINGER | Presented by the FOUNTAIN THEATRE, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A. | Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 29 | (323) 663-1525