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Musical ‘Quartet’ faces indignities of age together

Phil Shortell, Alaina Warren Zachary, Georgia Athearn and Mario Cabrera star in “Quartet.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bette Davis once said,”Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

“Quartet” captures that bravery within the walls of an opera singer’s retirement home in Kent, England.

The Adobe Theater will present Ronald Harwood’s funny, sad and poignant 1999 portrait of four aging stars beginning on Friday, April 19. The play runs on weekends through May 12.

The four musicians semi-jokingly refer to themselves as “inmates” because they have nowhere else to go.

“It just made me emotional,” director Martin Epstein said. “It made me laugh and it made me teary-eyed.

“It’s about opera singers, but this could be about anyone whose best years are behind them,” he added.

The four enjoyed their moments of fame, but what do they do now?

The comrades-in-arms are: Cecily, or Cissy, a flighty and forgetful soprano; Reggie, the dapper artiste/philosopher; the earthy, sex-starved Wilfred, who makes randy-eyed glances as he spouts blue innuendoes like a teenaged boy. Finally, there’s the grand diva Jean. Her much-gossiped-about brief marriage to one of the other residents provides a touch of excitement.

The singers plan on performing the famed quartet from “Rigoletto” at the home’s fall gala in honor of Guiseppe Verdi’s birthday. They spar, tease, and, in one case, pinch a behind.

Their wit forms a razor-sharp distraction from the embarrassments of thickening waistlines, sagging bodies, fading memories and – worst of all for these one-time opera stars – cracking voices.

“You get to retire and you wonder where does your life go?” Epstein said. “All four of these people have those issues; a couple are walking around with canes; one is going through some kind of dementia. It’s sad when you realize this is what’s going to happen to everyone.”

Harwood is the author of screenplays for “The Dresser” (for which he was nominated for an Oscar) and “The Pianist,” for which he won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Dustin Hoffman directed the 2012 film starring Maggie Smith.

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