110217 Theater: Age cannot wither egos of opera stars
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The cast of “Quartet,” which opens a three-week run at the Strand Theater.

Theater: Age cannot wither egos of opera stars

By Carrie Humphreys
For the Observer

Ready for the “old folks” home perhaps?

The gray-haired and achy-boned foursome appearing in the Swamp Fox Players production of “Quartet” play aging opera singers who find themselves living together in a retirement home for professional singers and musicians. They had performed together earlier in their careers, when they produced a highly rated and successful recording of the opera “Rigoletto,” with its famous quartet for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone (“Bella figlia dell’amore”).

Now, at their age and with complicated circumstances, might they ever sing together again? Not telling.

They are a feisty group. With big egos.

“The four of us in the cast play former super-mega-opera-stars, all real artists in every sense of the word, even now when old and rickety.” said Kas Mead, who plays Jean Horton. “The opera world is rarified air. When you are on top in opera, it is a big deal,” Mead said. “These are bigger than life characters which makes them quite funny. I play a true diva.”

With an MFA degree from New York University, Mead is a former professional actor with a long list of live theater and film to her credit. Her Swamp Fox appearances include “Love Letters” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“In my professional career I was a small fish in a big pond for 20 years. In community theater I’m a big fish in a little pond,” Mead said. “If you’re an actor you carry on until you drop.”

When actors play a character, they strive for no less than perfection. “The key is to find where you and the character collide, connect. I connected with Jean because she is older and is passionate about her area of expertise,” Mead said. “I have enjoyed getting into the mind and body of a once great opera singer.”

Her husband, Allen Mead, made it easy, she said. He is the director.

“He’s a great advocate for actors and a big supporter of the theater,” Kas said.

Now retired, Allen has always had an interest in drama and volunteered to direct. “This is my first time directing anything other than a few corporate films for work,” he said.

He selected “Quartet,” a 1999 play by Ronald Harwood that was later made into a movie, because the story makes the audience “feel.” “Art is meaningless unless you feel something and this play runs the gamut of emotions,” Allen said. “The players will make you laugh, but it isn’t a campy comedy. It’s intelligent. I read about 20 plays before choosing ‘Quartet.’ Then I put my wife in it, so I already had 25 percent of the cast.”

Two of his other cast members are also married in real life. Tom Newmister plays naughty Wilfred Bond. Darice Newmister plays the delicately senile Cissy Robson. Jeff Siegrist plays Reginald Paget, once married unhappily to Jean. Robbie O’Donnell makes a cameo appearance as Bobby Swanson.

“Tom played my wife’s son in ‘Daisy,’ ” Allen noted. “Jeff acted with her in ‘Love Letters.’ ”

With such a talented cast, Allen said, his first directing job has been pretty easy. “No one sings. This is not a musical. It is not a technically challenging play. My job is to keep it flowing and see that everything looks good.”

If you go

What: “Quartet” by Ronald Harwood.

When: Nov. 3-4, 9-11, 17- 18 at 8 p.m. Nov. 12 and 19 at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Strand Theater.

How much: $18. Call 843-527-2924 for tickets.

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