Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Act Out-Adult Theatre: Jeff Recommended Opus at Red Twist Theatre (Review)

We made our first foray into Redtwist Theatre's tiny black box on Saturday, to see their highly acclaimed production of Opus, which just received a Jeff recommendation.   This marks their 10th show in a row, to be Jeff recommended!   Just call them lettuce cause they're on a roll.  From their 2009-2010 opener Lettice and Lovage, all of their Jeff-eligible shows have been Jeff recommended.

Here at ChiIL Mama, we appreciate great theatre for kids and for adults.   And we love a good twist...licorice wise and plot wise.   We review loads of theatre, from all the elaborate Broadway in Chicago productions, to tiny, intriguing store front offerings.   My guilty theatre pleasure, where possible, is a packet of Twizzlers and a Sapphire n tonic.   So, when a member of The Saints (theatre ushers) and two educator friends wanted to see Opus, I was intrigued, and arranged to review the show.   I love their colorful mission statement:

To do white hot drama 
In a tiny black box
With a little red twist
Redtwist says:  We strive to do white hot drama, from name-brand blockbusters, to risky new work, and obscure buried treasures, that pack emotional force, examine moral dilemmas, and reveal greater truths…

by transforming our tiny black box and its explosive immediacy into a thematic asset, specifically tailored for every show and intended to close the gap between actor and audience, thus blurring the line between seating and staging…

by utilizing a little red twist in the concept and design of each production to provide a totally unique theatre experience that is simultaneously intimate, comfortable, and safe, yet intense, edgy, and thrilling, at a distance only inches away.

Redtwist Theatre is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization


a world-class string quartet
a bitter clash of wills
an explosive climax
a brilliant musical score

Regular Show Times:  Thu, Fri, Sat 7:30pm, and Sun 3pm
Through Jan 15
Tickets:  $25-$30 (half price tickets possible for some show times through Goldstar)
Opus is a smashing success fraught with genius and insanity, sexual tension, hidden affairs, brilliance and banality.  This quartet of musicians, at the top of their game in the chamber music world, still struggle with their own demons, mortality, tempers, and tempestuous relationships.   

Add two coveted, priceless, antique Lazara instruments from the 17th century into the mix, and you have a volatile, high stakes game.   The characters manage to be simultaneously rarified and raunchy.  They're accomplished enought to be invited to play the white house, yet their perfectionism and petty tirades threaten to tear apart the very fiber and substance of their quartet.

Opus is a challenging piece because the actors need to convincingly play stringed instruments on stage, while backed by a soundtrack.  Only one actor in Opus had ever played, and that was on the high school level.  They didn't attempt accurate fingering, but after all, the focus of the plot is the multilayered relationships between the characters, not the proper placement of a pinkie.   The production had a music coach come in and work with the actors on how to move their bodies and bows convincingly to, in effect, do the equivalent of lip syncing with violins and violas.  They did a fabulous job of embodying the characters and making the audience believe world class quartet, without their playing being over the top or distracting.  After the show, we spoke to an audience member who plays a stringed instrument professionally, and she was impressed.

Emily Tate was a stand out in her gorgeous dress, her character shining through as a highly gifted, yet unassailably stable island among turbulent seas.   This tiny storefront theatre is a force to reckon with and one to watch.  We thoroughly enjoyed the show and highly recommend it.

More from Redtwist:
Opus is the uniquely fascinating story about a world-class string quartet. The musical ensemble is in the midst of a bitter clash of wills between the two leaders of the group—one the artistic genius, the other, the business guru. One stays as the group leader and ousts the other. 

The replacement is a young woman, fresh out of school, and the evolution of the group takes several unexpected turns en route to a riveting conclusion. Featuring a bedrock of compelling "family" dynamics, Opus is a gripping piece of drama punctuated by a brilliant musical score. It was one of the most produced plays in the U.S. in 2009, and Redtwist has the Chicago premiere. The cast includes Redtwist company member and Jeff Award-winner Brian Parry,
along with Paul Dunckel, John Ferrick, Michael Sherwin, and Emily Tate.  

Their next offering March 4- April 17th sounds ambitious and amazing, too.  They're taking on The Laramie Project:  Ten Years Later, another Chicago premier.

The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later
by Moises Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris, and Stephen Belber
Staged Readings of the original Laramie Project
by Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project
beginning February 17, 2012

Mar. 4 thru Apr. 7, 2012
Directed by Greg Kolack (3-time Jeff Award-winner for Best Director)

The sequel is the terrific follow-up to the legendary work produced by the Tectonic Theater Project in 1998 in the immediate aftermath of the Matthew Shepard murder in Laramie, Wyoming. Since that watershed hate crime, Tectonic has reconnected with nearly all the people whom they interviewed (and who appeared as characters in the original play) to assess how they have changed. 

The results are startling, regarding both growth and stasis. The United States passed an Act of Congress called The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, on Oct 22, 2009. This play documents the incredible journey of, well, the tectonic shift in the U.S. in the past ten years culminating in that landmark legislation. Featuring breathtaking interviews with both incarcerated killers, as well as a right-wing Wyoming legislator who rises to the occasion in support of a gay rights bill. It is riveting and  life-affirming theatre. This is the Chicago premiere.

Extra kudos to Redtwist for going green.   They're in the vanguard with innovative playbill recycling.   A few theatres put out a box to collect programs, but many are crumpled or a bit worse for wear and can't be reused.   And most patrons don't recycle.   Redtwist encases their programs in vinyl and requires them to be returned, like a restaurant menu!   If you're a collector who truly wants to save yours for posterity or refer back to it later, you can access the playbill on line and print our your own copy or request a copy at the box office.


1 comment:

  1. There will be another chance to see Opus at Theater on the Lake the week of July 4.