OPUS: 80% – Sweet – UPDATED

Photo: Daniel Blinkoff (left) and Christian Lebano in "Opus." Credit: Ed Krieger.

Levy and his accomplished cast almost manage to sell Hollinger’s unnecessary excursions into overwrought soap, particularly in the final scene. It’s the smaller moments that compel, creating an intimacy that make “Opus” a stylish midsummer date night.
Charlotte Stoudt – LA Times

The world of classical chamber music easily evokes images of grace and splendor. But in this insightful play by violinist-turned-playwright Michael Hollinger, we get a warts-and-all glimpse of the behind-the-scenes interactions among members of a fictional string quartet preparing for a prestigious White House performance. Behind their creation of enduringly resplendent music, the musicians grapple with the same challenges of loyalty, insecurity, personal differences, and other human foibles that can surface in any group endeavor. Director Simon Levy’s lovingly crafted production perfectly captures the tension and the aesthetic beauty that make this intelligent play take flight.
Les Spindle – Backstage

The play and the playing are enhanced by the simple, attractive set design by Frederica Nascimento, with Ken Booth’s fine lighting design. There’s little to say about perfection. Except that The Fountain Theatre does it again!
Madeleine Shaner – Park La Brea News/Beverly Press (opens in pdf)

Something wonderful happens with a play that works. You settle at the far right of an intimate theater, one step from the stage, hard seats, 90 minutes no intermission, nervously checking the route to exit, estimating the embarrassment and chaos you might cause if you have to cross in front of the stage to get to the john. The lights go down and the play opens to an undressed stage: four chairs, four music stands for a string quartet (two violins, a viola and a cello). Spotlight on the violist who explains, in passionate monologue, the emotional effect of music. The scene changes and there is our quartet but without him, auditioning a talented young musician to replace him…(where has he gone?) and then, in a series of short scenes that plunge you into the chaos and tension and distress of four tightly connected musicians trying to make a single glorious sound, you are drawn into the anguish, the struggle, the pettiness, the emotional pain of this tight little group…and you have suddenly forgotten where you are, the state of your bladder, and you have slipped into the world of these five characters. It’s a theater experience that doesn’t always happen. It happens in Opus.
Clare Elfman – Buzzine

“Opus” is not one of those plays that ruminates on the meaning of art and its role in society. It is, instead, an altogether absorbing study of very real and very human individuals as they cope with their lives and prepare for the most important performance of their careers. A performance to which we, along with the president, can only shout “Bravo!”
Cynthia Citron – Reviewplays

Directed by Simon Levy, the drama begins with a studied manner before launching into full dynamism, as the particulars of the players’ dilemmas and entanglements come into focus. In a solid ensemble, Doughman is noteworthy for her character’s impeccable truth; likewise Cooper Thornton is highly effective as Alan, the down-to-earth second violinist who reacts with growing consternation and dismay to snowballing events. The performers mime their concerts in admirable sync (sound design is by Peter Bayne, with input from musical advisers Roy Tanabe and Larry Sonderling). Complemented by designer Ken Booth’s lighting, Frederica Nascimento’s backdrop, with its cubes in autumnal colors, seems reflective of the quartet’s rich but cloistered world.
Deborah Klugman – LA Weekly

Opus, the play, squanders its gorgeous promise and the shapely production it has received by wallowing in soap suds instead of wading gently in a clear freshwater stream from which music, not twisted relationships, emanates.
Harvey Perr – Stage and Cinema

Drama and Soap Opera are fundamentally the same in that they deal with human interactions. But where they fundamentally differ is in the nuance of the given-situation and in the writing. This is Drama, funny at times, but always wrenching in the exposure of the fault-lines that ultimately destroy the group. Taken from life, undoubtedly, but well-dramatized by Hollinger. Director Simon Levy has worked his signature magic with the entire production and the five actors are to be congratulated on such intense individual and ensemble work.Frederica Nascimento’s set design and Ken Booth’s lighting design complement each other, as do the costumes of A. Jeffrey Schoenberg. This is one high-toned evening that should be viewed by lovers of theatre and of classical chamber music.
Dale Reynolds – Stagehappenings

Simon Levy plucks a fairly cohesive whole from Hollinger’s otherwise string of discordant scenes that smack of supercilious affectation. Given the brilliant talents at the Fountain, one wishes they had better material to work with. It’s hard to fault this production, which mightily tries to overcome the tinny dialogue and obvious plot. For all their efforts, the play hits a hollow note.
M.R. Hunter – EyeSpyLA

I am highly appreciative of the work regularly accomplished at the Fountain Theatre, but this project, in spite of its glorious music and good actors, left me unsatisfied. I blame the play; I don’t feel it is a finished piece.
Eve Meadows – Stagehappenings

The Fountain has a history of long-running, multi-award-winning productions, and Opus looks to be no exception. Just as Photograph 51 made the life of a research scientist absolutely mesmerizing, so does Opus make the world of the classical musician every bit as spellbinding. This is L.A. intimate theater at its brilliant best.
Steven Stanley – StageSceneLA

Such is the premise of “Opus,” which is currently enjoying its world premiere at The Fountain Theatre. Written by playwright Michael Hollinger (a classically trained violinist who knows the territory first-hand), and exquisitely directed by Simon Levy, thisintimate production is living theater at its best.
Shirle Gottlieb – Stagehappenings

Michael Hollinger’s Opus takes us behind the scenes of a professional East Coast string quartet, which is certainly an arena I’ve never seen dramatized. The conflict arises from a personnel shift, an illness, sex, the custody of a rare violin, accompanied by the inherent drama of the music the group plays. Until a grand finale that almost collapses under the weight of contrived plot strands, it looks like a minor masterpiece under Simon Levy’s direction.
Don Shirley – LA Stage Watch

The Fountain Theatre is one of L.A.’s most respected venues having garnered over 200 awards for production, performance, and design in its 20-year history. Its latest production is certainly destined to be yet another notch on its awards belt. Working with a brilliant script by Michael Hollinger, Opus, a stirring look at the behind-the-scenes drama of a string quartet, award-winning director Simon Levy put together a fabulous ensemble and created a fascinating evening of theatre.
Beverly Cohn – LASplash

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.
Steven Leigh Morris – LA Weekly

All hell breaks loose at the White House when Dorian shows up, having pursued the others to fire Elliot, and they agree. Things are complicated by a recurring cancer in one of the players that also threatens their stability. All this is rather melodramatic and nears being a soap opera. Other movies, documentaries, and books have been written about the trouble of group dynamics when the group must act as one, so none of the infighting was very surprising at least to me who has encountered this in the theatre as well. For lovers of classical music and a behind the scenes look at what goes into making music, Opus will, no doubt please but as a play it falls a bit short.
Robert Machray – Stagehappenings

“Opus” Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m.
Sundays. Ends July 25. $18-$30. Contact: 323-663-1525. Running time: 95 minutes.

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LemonMeter About the Author: We don’t “review” shows here at the Lemon, rather we "review" reviews by gathering them from a variety of local review sites around the internet, judging them to be positive or negative, then forming an aggregate score that we call a LEMONMETER RATING, showing how well that show has been reviewed in total. For more detail on how the LemonMeter works visit here.

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