Quartet Is Highly Strung in World Premiere of Opus at Philly's Arden; Cast Announced

News   Quartet Is Highly Strung in World Premiere of Opus at Philly's Arden; Cast Announced Casting has been announced for Arden Theatre Company's world premiere production of Philadelphia playwright Michael Hollinger's Opus, about a high-strung group of classical musicians facing the music of their lives.

Arden producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen will direct a company that includes two time Barrymore Award-winner Greg Wood (Death of a Salesman, Daedalus), David Whalen (Philadelphia Theatre Company's Barrymore Award-winning Take Me Out), Douglas Rees, Patrick McNulty and Erica Cuenca.

Rehearsals began Dec. 12. Performances at the resident Philly company begin Jan. 12, 2006, toward an opening of Jan. 17. Performances continue to March 5.

"Violist turned playwright, Michael Hollinger returns to his first passion with Opus, capturing all the richness and power of any great piece of music in a play," according to Arden production notes. "With only a few days to rehearse Beethoven's 'Opus 131,' a world-renowned string quartet struggles to prepare for their highest-profile performance. Their rehearsal room becomes a pressure cooker as passions rise, personalities clash, and the players are forced to confront the ephemeral nature of their life's work."

Hollinger's works include An Empty Plate in the Café Du Grand Beouf, Incorruptible, Red Herring and Tooth and Claw.

A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Michael Hollinger "is a classically trained violist who later became captivated by playwriting." He received his masters in theatre at Villanova University, where he is now an assistant professor. Hollinger won the Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play. "As a musician," Hollinger said in production notes. "I tend to think of my plays as compositions: characters are instruments, scenes are movements; tempo, rhythm, and dynamics are critical…"

This is the sixth Hollinger-Arden world premiere under Nolen's direction.

"Hollinger's insight of the human spirit has always been an inspiration to me," Nolen stated. "It is truly a joy to do any of his work."

Opus is flavored with the sound of Beethoven's "Opus 131." Sound designer Jorge Cousineau partnered with a student string quartet from Curtis Institute of Music to create an original recording for the Arden's production that will continue to accompany the play in subsequent runs.

The creative team includes scenic designer James Kronzer, costume designer Michael McAleers, lighting designer Andrew David Ostrowski and sound designer Jorge Cousineau.

Opus is presented in association with City Theatre in Pittsburgh. Performances play Pittsburgh starting in March, with the same cast.

For more information, call (215) 922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.

Arden is at 40 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia.