The unofficial motto at the retirement home for musicians where onetime opera singers Reggie (Robert Foxworth), Jean (Elizabeth Franz), Wilfred (Roger Forbes) and Cecily (Jill Tanner) reside is "NSP," which stands for "No Self-Pity." Yet in Ronald Harwood's Quartet, directed by Richard Seer at The Old Globe's theaterin-the-round, that's what these four spend a lot of time doing— some more than others.
Jean, the biggest opera star of the four, is feeling sorry for herself when she isn't feeling hostile, and Reggie conceals his self-indulgence in brooding and ominous silences. Cecily is the merriest but the least lucid, while Wilfred is sex-obsessed, trotting out aging-horndog quips. But at least he doesn't resort to SP.
Quartet hinges on the subplot of once-married Reggie and Jean's uneasy reunion at the English retirement home and the heady prospect of the foursome performing the Act 3 quartet from Rigoletto in celebration of Verdi's birthday. The tension of the subplot is, for the most part, addressed and resolved in the first act, and the buildup to the big performance drags for three scenes in Act 2, with character revelations made amid a rehearsal that never gets off the ground, choosing and trying on costumes and applying makeup. The pace is slow, which is undoubtedly the real-life pace of a retirement home, but too slow to appreciate what Harwood's trying to say about courage and living in the moment.
The chief disappointment of the story is the Rigoletto sequence itself. Earlier in the play, Wilfred and then especially Reggie make the point that there's no art without feeling. And yet Reggie, Jean, Wilfred and Cecily lip-sync their performance, principally because Jean no longer has a singing voice and because they're all, well, old. To see the four mouthing the words rings hollow and doesn't look as if any of them is feeling the art of Verdi or the art within themselves.
This does not detract from a likable performance from the ever-dependent Foxworth, a Globe associate artist, or from Franz with her pained yet restrained Jean. Her sadly wistful remarks to Cecily about sex are as soft and surprising as Wilfred's are loud and predictable.
Quartet runs through Aug. 24 at The Old Globe Theatre's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Fiddler on the Roof : With the Russian Revolution on the horizon, a humble milkman struggles to keep his family's traditions alive and marry off his three daughters. Opens Aug. 8 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Once : A musical stage version of the 2006 film, about a sad Irish musician (Guy) who meets and falls for a piano player (Girl) just as he's planning a big move to New York. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs from Aug. 12 through 17 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
The Sea Horse : A tender yet rocky love story between a seaman who longs to father a son and a tough-onthe-outside bar owner. Presented by Different Stages, it opens Aug. 9 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. differentstages.biz
The Two Gentlemen of Verona : Two friends leave Verona for Milan, where, natch, they get caught up in a love—er, rectangle? Opens Aug. 10 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Ether Dome : The West Coast premiere of a play, based on true events in the 19th century, about two pioneers of surgical anesthesia—a trailblazing dentist and his ambitious student. Through Aug. 10 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Into the Woods : A reinvented version of the musical that brings together classic fairy-tale characters returns to where it premiered in 1986. Through Aug. 10 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Jade Heart : A drama that jumps backward and forward in time to tell the story of a Chinese girl who was adopted as an infant by an American woman. Through Aug. 10 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Geeks: The Musical : A satirical take on the nerds who flock to Comic-Con. Presented by Pysphi Productions, it runs through Aug. 16 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. geeksmusicalsd.com
Much Ado About Nothing : Believe it or not, no one dies at the end of this, one of Shakespeare's classic comedies. Presented by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it runs through Aug. 16 at SDA Performing Arts Centre in Encinitas. intrepidshakespeare.com
The Odd Couple : The Neil Simon comedy that launched the wildly successful TV series, about a stuffy clean-freak who moves in with a slobby friend. Presented by Broadway Theatre, it opens Aug. 1 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido. broadwayvista.com
Here Lies Jeremy Troy : In this farce, a painter hires a model to pose as his lawyer friend's wife when the lawyer's boss comes to dinner. Through Aug. 18 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
Quartet : Three former opera singers, living at a home for aged musicians, are joined by the wife of one of them, and the four set out to perform one last concert. Through Aug. 24 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Pageant : Each show's audience picks a winner from six contestants in a beauty-and-talent competition in this musical comedy. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Aug. 31 at The Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
The Full Monty : The stage version of the 1997 British film has six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers putting on a strip show to raise money—and their spirits. Through Sept. 7 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Les Miserables : In this classic musical, a poor Frenchman spends 19 years in prison after stealing a loaf of bread, only to escape and get caught up in a revolution under an assumed identity. Through Sept. 7 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Crime Pays : A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net