SURREY – What is the meaning of art? Is there a meaningful life to be lived by the elderly artiste whose shining talent of youth has dimmed? Can love, or the memory of love, conquer all? Can you age gracefully, and happily, in a retirement home for retired (and not well-off financially) opera singers? These questions, and their answers, are the foundation for the script of Quartet, a comedy by Ronald Harwood.
White Rock Players’ Club has assembled a stunning quartet of "aging" actors – oh excuse me, make that "seasoned" actors – for its spring production of Quartet. It runs at Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock until April 25 (tickets via 604-536-7375 and Whiterockplayers.ca/tickets).
Director Don Briard says Quartet "is a play that speaks to us about many things, but most of all about aging and the nature of our relationships."
It is all that, and more. George Stone, as Reginald (or Reggie), makes his first appearance with White Rock Players, and admits to 50 years of onstage experience. Reggie has accepted his comfortable life at Beecham House, and he has plenty of time of ponder the meaning of art.
Fans of Fraser Valley Gilbert Sullivan Society may recognize Adrian Duncan.
This former Australian, a longtime actor and vocalist, currently lives in Coquitlam, and Quartet is his first non-musical theatre performance in many a year. He, too, has more than half a century of performance experience. His character, Wilf, is a delight, and Duncan encourages audiences to "enjoy the show as much as I intend to." Yes, he does enjoy himself.
Equity actor Alison Schamberger plays the delightfully ditzy Cecily Robson, and is also making her WRPC debut in this play. A past president of Metro Theatre and former drama teacher, her repertoire is impressive – and it shows. Nina Shoroplova, portraying the forgotten diva, Jean Horton, declares, "it is a treat to try and portray the challenges of aging as a retired opera singer." Absolutely brilliant.
While Act I of Quartet is almost senile in pace and action – I mean, how much action can there be amongst octogenarians – this play is beautifully crafted and executed, thanks to the perfect cast and director. Eventually, Reggie does find the answer to what is art. Art has no meaning unless it makes you feel. By the end of this play, you do feel. It is art.
There are those who do not believe that sets and costumes are all that valuable. I am not one of those people. Once again, I was stunned by the costumes executed by Pat McLean. White Rock Players, you are lucky to have her. The simple yet elegant set design, by director Don Briard, is limited by budget (it could use a bigger chandelier),
and Rosemary Schuster is a very gifted props master. Set decoration by Leigh Burton is a plus, plus.
So, in the end, should you see this show? Is it art? Would anyone under 50 find it meaningful? Find out for yourself.
While Quartet celebrates the aging performer – and is certainly an excellent vehicle for real-life aging actors – it is nice to note that our schools are just filled with young people who want to try out a life on stage. Sheena Johnson, now the full-time drama teacher at Elgin Park Secondary, is encouraging a new generation of young people wanting to learn stagecraft. Right now, they are in the final stages of preparing for a non-musical, junior production of Anne of Green Gables, and the senior students are working on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
The junior production has
interesting and challenging learning opportunities, Johnson says. "I have five Independent Studies students, specializing in costume design, stage craft, directing and stage management, who have taken control of the entire show while I’m working with senior students in another room," she relates.
By the way, you might remember Johnson from some Gilbert Sullivan Society productions. This experience in community theatre is a huge asset for
a drama teacher. Learn by doing, commit time and talent, and don’t expect any financial reward at the end of it all. Applause, please.
It is always good to support student endeavors. I even suggested to Johnson that her junior group might benefit from seeing Quartet. Teenagers may not understand the aging concept yet. But they are good at expressing their feelings. Art makes you feel, or it is nothing. Right?
At Elgin Park Secondary, Anne of Green Gables
has matinees at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 20 and Tuesday, April 21. Evening performances are Wednesday, April 22 to Saturday, April 25 at 7 p.m. There will also be a matinee at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 25. Meanwhile, And Then There Were None will be performed Tuesday, May 19 to Friday, May 22, 7 p.m. nightly, with a matinee on Friday, May 15 at 10 a.m. Community theatre relies largely on ticket sales to fund events and productions. Fundraisers are just another "art form," don’t you think? Early next month, Beach House Theatre is holding a concert featuring saxophonist Cory Weeds and Doug Johnson (of Loverboy fame), on Thursday, May 7 at Earl Marriott Secondary’s Wheelhouse Theatre. Full details and tickets are available online at Beachhousetheatre.org, along with information about Beach House Theatre’s plans this summer at Crescent Beach.