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Theater Review: 'Quartet' A Reminder Of The Richness Of Life At Every Turn

By Elizabeth Young, The Newtown Bee


TheatreWorks New Milford has an utterly charming confection onstage this spring.

Ronald Harwood’s Quartet puts a foursome of retired, aging opera stars back in the spotlight one last time. Under the superb direction of Jane Farnol, comedy and wistful nostalgia pair to mourn what has been lost and celebrate that which remains.

Within the confines of an assisted living facility, far from the bright lights and big cities of their brilliant careers, four former opera stars find themselves together again. Their shared stage successes and romantic failures are fodder for their current relationships.

Cissy Robson (played by Jody Bayer) is in the early throes of memory loss. She resides in a blissful, childlike state of wonder in which all is new again and oh so thrilling. Her headphones provide a constant reminder of her life’s passion and success.

Lusting after Cissy, the lascivious Wilfred Bond (Ron Malyszka) spends a good deal of time reviving his youthful urges as he fantasizes of trysts.

Reginald Paget (Timothy Breslin) is a rigid old soul with a penchant for marmalade and a lonely past which is revisited when his ex-wife, Jean Horton (Dandy Barrett), arrives. Theirs is a contentious relationship born out of disappointment and desertion. Harboring deep resentment for prior offenses, Reginald is unglued by Jean’s presence. She seeks forgiveness while diffusing an unrelenting air of superiority.

Together again the four former stars are invited to sing the “Quartet” from Rigoletto in celebration of Verdi’s birthday. Thrilled by the prospect, and in denial of their diminished talent, they prepare, save for one lonely, secretive, and determined holdout.

This cast is rife with comedic skill and perfected performance technique. Jody Bayer is among the most reliably excellent talents in the area, and she does not disappoint here. Her Cissy darts in and out of consciousness joyfully. Even asleep, she entertains. Ms Bayer also beautifully portrays the alarm of early dementia. It is moving.

The droll, lecherous, and yet compassionate Wilfred is impishly rendered by Ron Malyszka. He plays a delightful old man-child who continues to relish life on his own terms. Mr Malyszka is an actor who can score a robust laugh with a nod of his head. He is always fun to watch.

Stern and unrelenting Jean Horton is fully drawn by the layered and skilled performance of Ms Barrett. Regal and haughty, yet vulnerable and damaged, Ms Barrett painstakingly reveals the soul of the powerhouse that is her faded opera star. She gorgeously delivers a stunner of a monologue. This is an elegant performance.

A newcomer deserving of kudos, Mr Breslin has boldly returned to the stage for the first time since high school, offering a real-life lesson of the “never too late” variety. While his is the more serious of the characters, Mr Breslin hits all the right comedic notes. His Reggie runs deep and determined in his personal life, professional experience, and choice of jams. Mr Breslin portrays all this very well.

The costuming of this cast is perfection. There is nary a loose thread or strap reveal in the entire wardrobe. The selections fit the characters and enhance them. Costume Designer Mary Kimball is a master at this craft.

While this play is inspiring, to those of a certain age, it is ultimately a lovely and humorous reminder of the richness of life at every turn, which can be appreciated and enjoyed by all ages. Do not miss this ideal cast in this beautiful play.

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