A healthy dose of nostalgia, a touch of forboding mortality and plenty of laughs comprise White Rock Players’ Club’s next production, Ronald Harwood’s Quartet.
The poignant yet uplifting play – opening April 8 – tells the story of four retired opera singers, living in a home for retired performers in the English countryside.
The group – including the newly arrived ex-wife of one of the singers – is anxiously preparing for a gala performance to celebrate the anniversary of Guiseppe Verdi’s birthday, wading through a sea of doubt, pressure and scrutiny focused on whether the quartet will be able to sing the Quartet from Rigaletto, a piece that represents the high point in their long-lost careers.
For director Don Braird, Quartet is a multi-layered tale of rebuilding relationships, embracing aging and searching for harmony that will appeal to a wide audience.
And though he anticipates many theatre-goers will have seen the 2012 film version of Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman and starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins, Braird insists the stage rendition delves much deeper into the lives of the four characters.
“The characters as Harwood drew them in the play are, in many respects, much more complicated and real than they were in the movie,” Braird explained. “(The audience) will definitely learn things in the play that they didn’t learn in the movie about who these people are.”
A recurring topic throughout the play, Braird said, is the notion of getting older, something that each character deals with in a unique fashion.
“One character has embraced the fact that he’s getting older, while another hates it,” Braird said. “It sounds kind of heavy, but it is a comedy, believe it or not.”
The story touches on many facets – both good and bad – of living one’s ‘twilight years,’ for characters whose profession largely depends on staying youthful.
“One of the women is on the edge of dementia, “ Braird said, noting this character is often the source of comic relief throughout the production. “It might not be the most politically correct thing for people to get a laugh out of her, but she absolutely enjoys life, and the fact that every once in a while she does something odd is actually quite endearing.”
Appearing on stage at Coast Capital Playhouse is a cast made up of actors from across the Lower Mainland, including Adrian Duncan (from Coquitlam, as Wilf), George Stone (from White Rock, as Reggie), Alison Schamberger (from Port Moody, as Cissy) and Nina Shoroplova (from Vancouver, as Jean).
As a first-time players’ club director, Braird said he’s looking forward to exploring what the Coast Capital Playhouse has to offer as a venue, noting its small size is appealing for this production.
“It’s a really nice space, and it’s a fairly intimate theatre,” he said. “The back row is really not that far from the stage.”
Quartet runs from April 8 to 25, with evening performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees on April 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m. There will be a gala opening April 10 and an opportunity to speak with the cast and director after the April 16 performance.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $16 for students, seniors and CCS members. Call 604-536-7535 or visit www.whiterockplayers.com for more info.