Kanata Theatre’s Production of “Quartet” is all About Friendships and Frailties
ABOVE: Jenefer Haynes as Cissy and Mike Kennedy as Wilf in Kanata Theatre’s production of Quartet. (Photo: Coutesy Kanata Theatre)
The stage at Kanata’s Ron Maslin Playhouse has been transformed into Beecham House, an English retirement home where former music professionals live out the final act of their lives.
Quartet is a comedy that centres around Wilf (Mike Kennedy), Cissy (Jenefer Haynes), Regie (Ian Stauffer), and Jean (Janet Rice), four opera singers, and an upcoming celebration concert that takes place annually to commemorate the birthday of composer Giuseppe Verdi, but not everyone is happy about the upcoming performance.
Our cast of characters is each dealing with the frailties of aging while coming to terms with their fading greatness. As Reggie states at one point, old age is much like opera, "one repeats themselves all the time."
Wilf has resigned himself to make the best of his situation; happy-go-lucky Sissy is preoccupied trying to recall her last thought; Reggie, with his type A personality, is writing a memoir while attempting to work out the meaning of life; Self-centered Jean reveres the memories of her greatness and insists on being a diva, although one that walks with a cane.
Metaphors of art and life abound in this highly enjoyable production. Cissy refers to opera great Verdi as Joe Green and laughs. Her attempt to bring Verdi down off his pedestal reflects the former operatic fab four who have been forgotten by the world and tucked away in institutional care while they wait for heaven. Each character displays both their physical and emotional vulnerabilities, and it takes concessions for them all to work together; the result is true harmony.
Wilf tells his fellow artists that “art is meaningless if it does not make you feel,” and the fab four make the audience feel.
The production ends masterfully—no spoilers here, you'll have to see for yourself—which had the opening night audience jump to their feet in applause.
The play is directed by Barbara Kobolak, a long-time Kanata Theatre member whose previous directorial work includes The Dining Room and Ottawa Little Theatre’s 2022 production of On a First Name Basis. Like the four characters, the Kanata Theatre is a coming together of artists. The dedicated group of 250 or so volunteers that have done a fabulous job of bringing arts and culture to the suburbs of Ottawa.
The curtain was set to rise on the play in 2020 before Covid shut the production and the world down. The group, active since the late-1960s, put on five plus plays per calendar year.
ABOVE: Opening night at the Ron Maslin Theatre.
Quartet is written by Ronald Harwood and runs Tuesdays to Sundays until May 20, 2023, at Kanata’s Ron Maslin Theatre.
The theatre is located at 1 Ron Maslin Way, a quick drive from downtown Ottawa, with plenty of free parking.