Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe


Adobe Theater
Review by Rob Spiegel

Poster Courtesy of the Adobe Theater
"What a drag it is getting old." That's the opening line of the Rolling Stones song "Mother's Little Helper," and it's effectively the theme of Ronald Harwood's play Quartet. The play follows the story of four former opera singers who are living out their last days in a home for retired musicians.

There is actually such a place. Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, which translates to "rest home for musicians," is a home for retired opera singers and musicians in Milan, Italy. The home was founded by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. The characters in Quartet reference Verdi frequently during the play—noting that in England, Verdi's name would be Joe Green—though the setting for Quartet is in England.

The crux of the story is that three of the singers have been in the home for some time. They are soon to be joined by Jean Horton (Alaina Warren Zachary), who apparently was the biggest star of the four. One of three current residents, Reginald Paget (Mario Cabrera) is the former husband of Jean and is thus apprehensive about her arrival. Reggie's friend Wilfred Band (Phillip J. Shortell) is thrilled about Jean's arrival, since it means the four of them might be able to perform together once again. The fourth resident, Cecily Robson (Georgia Athearn), is too wigged out with dementia to feel strongly one way or the other.

Once Jean arrives, Wilfred tries to sell her on the idea of performing the third act quartet "Bella figlia dell'amore" from Rigoletto at a gala to celebrate Verdi's birthday. Jean is sour on the idea and we discover it's because her voice gave out years ago. Yet, for every dramatic problem there's a solution—both for Jean's lost voice and for the unsettled affair of Jean and Reggie's brief marriage. As all this plays out, we hear a litany of complaints about aging.

The story is charming in its humor as well as its honestly about the difficulties of old age. Quartet debuted in London when Harwood was a mere 65. Though it only ran for four months, it did have a successful tour in 2010 and it was taken up as a film by Dustin Hoffman in his 2012 directorial debut.

According to the program notes by director Marty Epstein, the idea of staging Quartet came up when Zachary and Shortell took Epstein to breakfast and pitched the idea of staging the play in Albuquerque. Epstein was "touched by the play" when he read it and asked the Adobe to get on board. Needless to say, Zachary and Shortell were eager to jump in as actors.

It's a lovely story of four bright stars who have lost their highest shine yet are still beaming with life. Their foibles are more pronounced than their talent at this point, but the love of music, the love of life, and their awkward love for each other continues on.

The quartet of actors deliver tremendous performances, going far beyond the script in bringing these characters alive. They are familiar faces to Adobe audiences, and each one is superb in this production. Epstein does an excellent job measuring out the dramatic high points with the underlying pathos, and he keeps the sadness and comedy in balance. This production doesn't smack you in the head, nor does it leave you contemplating life's big questions, but it delivers a quietly rich dramatic two hours that made me glad I took the time.

Kudos to the production team which includes Heather Lovick-Tolley as stage manager, Shannon Flynn as technical director, Linda Wilson as set designer, Rey Rey Griego as lighting designer, Matt Worley as sound designer, the ever-present, always great Carolyn Hogan as costume designer, and Jessica Osbourne as dialect coach. Excellent job by all.

Quartet, through May 12, 2019, at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. There will be a pay-what-you-will performance on Thursday, May 9, at 7:30 pm. General admission is $20. Admission for seniors, students, ATG members, and first responders is $17. For reservations, call 505-898-9222. For more information, visit