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LA Theater Review

Preludes & Fugues

As with listening to the fascinating, compelling, and sometimes disturbingly unwieldy elements within a piece of modern chamber music, it may take awhile to get into John Glore's new theatre piece while watching--and listening--to it. Then again, the connection to its distinctly musical passages of imagery and language and raw emotional modulations may never happen. But if it happens to you, you'll be hooked.

Beautifully directed by Edgar Landa, Preludes & Fugues doesn't try to squirm around its musical structure, which somehow builds to an amazing theatricality without being at all predictable. After a prelude/prologue of Ryan Poulson's striking original music accompanied only by a somewhat arbitrary and lengthy light show, we meet the musicians of the Morpheus String Quartet: the abrasive cellist (Jeremy Gabriel), spacey violist (Kristen Brennan), put-together 1st violin (Michelle Silver), and functionary 2nd violin (Robert Seay). They tell us their rehearsal sucked, and we figure out this is what we just heard. We get a glimpse of their strangely complementary, conflicting personalities and overly familiar yet distant relationships, and we understand how they fit together to make music. Then each goes home to toss and turn and drink and dream throughout the night before their concert.

Here's where the fun begins. The musicians drift in and out of each other's unconscious interludes to create a lyrical, playful, and dramatic composition that has a blast breaking all the rules. The performers are fantastic. Like a good chamber ensemble, they take what Glore has written and make it their own, neatly maneuvering around sections which are perhaps too aware of their construction: extended riffs on language and theme and character and relationships. Whether it's a forbidden courtship unfolding backward through the looking glass; a visceral exploration of life and death and identity; alternate views of sexuality, ownership, and the history of intimacy; or the importance of whiskey, chocolate, and ice cream in the middle of the night, after warming up to Preludes & Fugues, it's an extraordinary experience--one well worth seeing. And hearing.

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