Theater review: ‘Dissonance’ at the Falcon Theatre

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It’s no novelty for playwrights to toy with classical musical structures as the basis for drama. Michael Hollinger’s “Opus” and Itamar Moses’ ‘Bach at Leipzig’ are only two examples.

Like “Opus,” Damian Lanigan’s “Dissonance,” now in its West Coast premiere at the Falcon, centers on the fortunes, both romantic and artistic, of a classical string quartet, in this case the London-based Bradley Quartet, which is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a concert at Carnegie Hall.

James (Daniel Gerroll), the temperamental founder of the group, is a violin virtuoso who has fallen short of greatness. Second violin Hal (Peter Larney), an annoying purist, constantly hectors James about methods and musicianship. Violist Paul (Skip Pipo), James’ brother and the object of his abuse, serves as passive peacemaker between the two. When Beth (Elizabeth Schmidt), the group’s cellist and Hal’s former flame, takes rock star Jonny (Jeffrey Cannata) as a music student and a lover, the delicate balance of the quartet is upended.

Early on, Lanigan seems intent on schooling us in the history of classical music -- grinding exposition that wears thin, as do Lanigan’s laborious musical metaphors.


Once the emphasis shifts to emotional interactions, things get marginally more interesting. But under Crispin Whittell’s rote direction, the actors fail to adequately humanize their curiously flat characters. The sterling exception is Gerroll’s fully fleshed James, a pettish tyrant whose narcissism cannot compensate for his devastating self-awareness. Yearning and isolated, he lashes out, destructively, in his decline -- and we can’t take our eyes off him. ALSO:

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“Dissonance,” Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 4. $34.50-$42. (818) 955-8101 or Running time: 2 hours.