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When: Tuesdays-Sundays, 7:30 p.m., Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. and Thursdays, 12 p.m. Continues through May 5 2011
Price: $20-33
Opus describes the inner workings of a prominent string quartet—as the show opens, the quartet is looking to replace their violist, Dorian (Matthew Boston), a talented but unstable performer who mysteriously disappears just weeks before the quartet is due to play a gig at the White House. They hire Grace (Sarah Stevens), a sweet young woman who struggles to understand the interplay of affection, hostility, and professional respect within the group. Portland Center Stage's production is essentially faultless, but the script itself suffers from an over-reliance on external drama: There is enough inherent tension in the four-person quartet that writer Michael Hollinger didn't need to artificially elevate the stakes with weighty subplots. By play's end, the focus has shifted from the quartet's delicate interpersonal balance to a series of exhaustingly high-pitched emotional outbursts. It's a shame, too—in an early scene, as the four musicians argue about whether or not a phrase of Beethoven requires a crescendo, a natural, honest drama emerges from the simple intersection of work and art. ALISON HALLETT


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