By Michael Hollinger

Directed by Jason W. GeraceOpus by  Michael Hollinger at Redtwist Theatre

At Redtwist Theatre, Chicago

“I know what ma non troppo means,” Elliot snaps, when Alan questions his playing.

“Well that was clearly troppo,” Alan retorts. “It sounds like we’re smothering a baby.” – from Opus

Riveting look into the dynamics of artistic collaboration soars

Who would think that mellow string chamber music would produce a dynamic drama? But playwright Michael Hollinger, himself a musician, has just done that. Kudos to Redtwist Theatre for bringing Opus to their intimate stage.  We are immersed into the fluid world of a world-class string quartet as that group  is struggling to resolve a bitter clash of wills between the two leaders of the group. Dorian (Paul Dunckel) – the group’s artistic genius is fighting with the group’s business gurus – Elliot (Michael Sherwin) over both artistic issues and business practices. Elliot engineers Dorian’s departure as the group adds Grace (Emily Tate) – a prodigy right out of college.

Opus at Redtwist theatre

Utilizing flashbacks for the back story, Opus is a compelling ‘family’ story of how personal dynamics, professional jealousy, sexual relationships, and drugs contribute to the vibrant culture of  the four expert musicians.  Opus deftly offers a glimpse into the artistic world of musicians striving for perfection in their art. We see their obsession with creating music that transcends their individual efforts.  To this group, the music is paramount as every action of the group must lead to excellence. Filled with wonderful music from Bach, Beethoven and Bartok that was marvelously timed to make us believe that the actors were playing (sound by Christopher Kriz), Opus plays like part music lesson, part relationship drama (on several levels) and part collective dynamic on creating art.

Opus at Redtwist theatre

This 85 minute one-act is riveting and the ending is shocking as tensions build toward the triumph of art over personality. Brian Parry plays the physical challenged while John Ferrick is Alan, a mensch and easy-going baseball fan. Elliot, played with a wound-too-tight imperial manner by Michael Sherwin is the temper-mental  first violin and business manager of the quartet. Grace, played by Emily Tate is the young prodigy trying to blend in to make great music. Dorian, played by Paul Dunckel is the genius bipolar heart of the group who gets removed by his ex-lover Elliott.

Opus at Redtwist theatre

In the 85 minute drama, we witness the unique personalities as they struggle to reach new heights with their art – their music. We see how the quartet’s sound is dominant to any squabble or any piece of equipment. There is a gripping ending that will  make you gasp! Don’t miss this well-acted and nicely produced drama.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: December 10, 2011

Jeff Recommended

For more info, see the Opus page at

At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-728-7529,, tickets $25, $27, $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through January 15, 2012

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