Anchor ads are not supported on this page.

4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Relative harmony

Old Globe Theater stages retiring Quartet

Quartet’s new resident diva dredges up memories best forgotten and turns everyone inside out.
Quartet’s new resident diva dredges up memories best forgotten and turns everyone inside out.

Quartet

In his No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre says, “Hell is other people.” For much of Ronald Harwood’s Quartet, hell is other divas.

Many years ago, Wilfred, Reginald, Jean, and Cecily performed “Bella Figlia dell’Amore,” the masterful quartet from Giuseppi Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. They achieved such perfection that the CD of their performance was reissued recently.

But what happens when your personal best is a distant memory? When it’s a nagging yardstick to show how far your skills have sunk? And how do you face that decline in your “declining” years?

In an interview, Harwood said, “Singers and ballet dancers have a physical limit on their lives. I think it must be dreadful to be famous and applauded and acclaimed and not be able to practice your art.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Reginald, Wilfred, and Cecily live in a home for retired musicians in Kent, England. Reginald writes his biography and meditates on art; Cecily, whose mind is becoming “terminally wayward,” is the selfless caregiver. Though he’s at least 75 years old, Wilfred acts as if puberty just hit him full bore, yesterday. The trio has an alliance, based on a vow to avoid self-pity, and live in relative harmony.

Jean, the fourth member of the quartet, sounds the discordant note. A diva in concert halls and tabloids, she somehow finds her way to the retirement home — a charity case, erstwhile international soprano; okay, maybe it fits. She dredges up memories best forgotten and turns everyone inside out.

Harwood wrote The Dresser, that wonderful tribute to an aging thespian and his personal assistant, and won an Academy Award for his screenplay of The Pianist. Quartet’s as far a cry from those successes as the quartet’s past is from their current abilities.

It does have the makings. Parts recall Robert Anderson’s eerie one-act I’m Herbert, in which a man and a woman, both over 75, try to recall their former lives and loves. When addled memories get in the way, their conversation turns theater-of-the-absurd funny — and harrowing, on reflection, since they’re so far from who they were.

Harwood’s quartet has “senior” traits: Cecily’s memory is going; rational Reginald has sudden spurts of anger; Wilfred, “the giver of life,” goes on and on about a sex life he may, or may not, have had; and Jean’s a take-no-prisoners narcissist. The combination of these various “notes” promises a music-like composition. Each is distinctly different. The choices define character and create a pattern.

Thanks to a polished production at the Old Globe, Quartet’s a tug-of-war between the journey and the destination.

In effect, Act One’s an actor’s vehicle. Harwood gives his characters free play to roam and develop. But by Act Two it’s as if his horse began to smell the barn. Everything narrows. The characters repeat themselves. Wilfred, for example, offers relentless comic relief — often sexist and homophobic (repetition’s a “sign of old age,” true, and these people come from a generation that thought like that; but here it signals a lack of imagination).

Then Harwood slaps a summarizing tag on each, as in, “You probably didn’t realize this, but Reggie’s...” What started as a tapestry concludes with quick, tabloid revelations — and Harwood’s on to the next project.

Thanks to nuanced performances and Richard Seer’s subtly detailed direction, much of the “journey” entertains and intrigues.

Robert Foxworth gives Reginald such remarkable transparency, you can literally read his mind. Reggie appears held together, until we look inside, or when his anger, like a rogue wave, rises from within. Elizabeth Franz’s Jean and Jill Tanner’s Cecily bookend the play emotionally: Jean, brittle, defensive; Cecily, wide open and soft as a sponge. Like Foxworth, many of their “lines” are unwritten, subtextual suggestions.

The script builds a wall around Roger Forbes’s Wilfred. He must sing chipper, lusty notes long after they’ve made their point. His one-liners, delivered beautifully, are welcome at first. After a while, they begin to grate, then offend. Of the four characters, Wilfred’s the author’s most manipulated device.

All the design work has an appropriate, past-one’s-prime quality, from Charlotte Devaux’s costumes to York Kennedy’s autumnal hues. On Ralph Funicello’s useful set, the faded rugs probably peaked the same time the singers did.

As a play, Quartet ultimately disappoints. The destination reduces the story to silliness. And the journey? The cast performs as if at their high-water mark, as actors, and something to revere when they finally reach their declining years.


  • Quartet, by Ronald Harwood
  • Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
  • Directed by Richard Seer; cast: Roger Forbes, Robert Foxworth, Elizabeth Franz, Jill Tanner; scenic design, Ralph Funicello; costumes, Charlotte Devaux; lighting, York Kennedy; sound, Christopher R. Walker
  • Playing through August 31; Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-234-5623. theoldglobe.org

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Jakob Nowell takes up his father’s role as Sublime frontman

New lineup will perform at Bayfest on July 20
Next Article

Jakob Nowell takes up his father’s role as Sublime frontman

New lineup will perform at Bayfest on July 20
Quartet’s new resident diva dredges up memories best forgotten and turns everyone inside out.
Quartet’s new resident diva dredges up memories best forgotten and turns everyone inside out.

Quartet

In his No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre says, “Hell is other people.” For much of Ronald Harwood’s Quartet, hell is other divas.

Many years ago, Wilfred, Reginald, Jean, and Cecily performed “Bella Figlia dell’Amore,” the masterful quartet from Giuseppi Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. They achieved such perfection that the CD of their performance was reissued recently.

But what happens when your personal best is a distant memory? When it’s a nagging yardstick to show how far your skills have sunk? And how do you face that decline in your “declining” years?

In an interview, Harwood said, “Singers and ballet dancers have a physical limit on their lives. I think it must be dreadful to be famous and applauded and acclaimed and not be able to practice your art.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Reginald, Wilfred, and Cecily live in a home for retired musicians in Kent, England. Reginald writes his biography and meditates on art; Cecily, whose mind is becoming “terminally wayward,” is the selfless caregiver. Though he’s at least 75 years old, Wilfred acts as if puberty just hit him full bore, yesterday. The trio has an alliance, based on a vow to avoid self-pity, and live in relative harmony.

Jean, the fourth member of the quartet, sounds the discordant note. A diva in concert halls and tabloids, she somehow finds her way to the retirement home — a charity case, erstwhile international soprano; okay, maybe it fits. She dredges up memories best forgotten and turns everyone inside out.

Harwood wrote The Dresser, that wonderful tribute to an aging thespian and his personal assistant, and won an Academy Award for his screenplay of The Pianist. Quartet’s as far a cry from those successes as the quartet’s past is from their current abilities.

It does have the makings. Parts recall Robert Anderson’s eerie one-act I’m Herbert, in which a man and a woman, both over 75, try to recall their former lives and loves. When addled memories get in the way, their conversation turns theater-of-the-absurd funny — and harrowing, on reflection, since they’re so far from who they were.

Harwood’s quartet has “senior” traits: Cecily’s memory is going; rational Reginald has sudden spurts of anger; Wilfred, “the giver of life,” goes on and on about a sex life he may, or may not, have had; and Jean’s a take-no-prisoners narcissist. The combination of these various “notes” promises a music-like composition. Each is distinctly different. The choices define character and create a pattern.

Thanks to a polished production at the Old Globe, Quartet’s a tug-of-war between the journey and the destination.

In effect, Act One’s an actor’s vehicle. Harwood gives his characters free play to roam and develop. But by Act Two it’s as if his horse began to smell the barn. Everything narrows. The characters repeat themselves. Wilfred, for example, offers relentless comic relief — often sexist and homophobic (repetition’s a “sign of old age,” true, and these people come from a generation that thought like that; but here it signals a lack of imagination).

Then Harwood slaps a summarizing tag on each, as in, “You probably didn’t realize this, but Reggie’s...” What started as a tapestry concludes with quick, tabloid revelations — and Harwood’s on to the next project.

Thanks to nuanced performances and Richard Seer’s subtly detailed direction, much of the “journey” entertains and intrigues.

Robert Foxworth gives Reginald such remarkable transparency, you can literally read his mind. Reggie appears held together, until we look inside, or when his anger, like a rogue wave, rises from within. Elizabeth Franz’s Jean and Jill Tanner’s Cecily bookend the play emotionally: Jean, brittle, defensive; Cecily, wide open and soft as a sponge. Like Foxworth, many of their “lines” are unwritten, subtextual suggestions.

The script builds a wall around Roger Forbes’s Wilfred. He must sing chipper, lusty notes long after they’ve made their point. His one-liners, delivered beautifully, are welcome at first. After a while, they begin to grate, then offend. Of the four characters, Wilfred’s the author’s most manipulated device.

All the design work has an appropriate, past-one’s-prime quality, from Charlotte Devaux’s costumes to York Kennedy’s autumnal hues. On Ralph Funicello’s useful set, the faded rugs probably peaked the same time the singers did.

As a play, Quartet ultimately disappoints. The destination reduces the story to silliness. And the journey? The cast performs as if at their high-water mark, as actors, and something to revere when they finally reach their declining years.


  • Quartet, by Ronald Harwood
  • Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
  • Directed by Richard Seer; cast: Roger Forbes, Robert Foxworth, Elizabeth Franz, Jill Tanner; scenic design, Ralph Funicello; costumes, Charlotte Devaux; lighting, York Kennedy; sound, Christopher R. Walker
  • Playing through August 31; Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-234-5623. theoldglobe.org
Comments
Sponsored

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

BattleMage makes EverQuest Corpse Run

Corpse Run is a 6.3% dry-hopped ABV West Coast IPA brewed with Nectaron, Mosaic, and Motueka hops
Next Article

Peter King lives a cell-free life

The art of conversation “has most definitely gone downhill.”
Comments
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox Movies@Home — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close

Anchor ads are not supported on this page.