"I know what ma non troppo means," Elliot says when his playing is criticized.

"Well, that was clearly troppo," Alan snaps back. "It sounds like we're smothering a baby."

How these actors "play" their instruments is part of the magic of Opus. Director Shorter has kept performance sequences simple and abstract. The actors, holding real instruments, don't actually play them, but by establishing early on a simple miming of their bowing to recorded tracks (by Philadelphia's Vertigo String Quartet), we buy into the conceit. Besides, these guys look like classical musicians right up to their haircuts (or shiny scalp, in the case of Carl).

Uptown’s Equus lets its studly actors go bareback
Mike Morgan
Uptown’s Equus lets its studly actors go bareback

Details

Equus continues through March 21 at Kalita Humphreys Theater. Call 214-219-2718 or go to uptownplayers.org.

Opus continues through March 13 at Circle Theatre, Fort Worth. Call 817-877-3040 or go to circletheatre.com.

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Playwright Hollinger, who also wrote Incorruptible, one of Circle's hits last year, is a violist. His inside knowledge of the tantrums and intrigues within classical music groups is all over Opus. But you don't have to like Bach or Bartok to appreciate his play, which unfolds as the mystery of what happened to poor Dorian.

On a sparsely furnished set by Clare Floyd DeVries, with walls done in the creamy wood of a modern concert hall (lit beautifully by John Leach), Circle's spiffy actors are in perfect pitch with the drama and comedy in Opus. Taylorson, last seen as the volcanic radio host in Upstart Theatre's Talk Radio, brings a subtler level of intensity to the role of Elliot. This actor is the area's leading maestro of controlled rage. His voice has a dark, sexy timbre too—more woodwind than violin—just right for commanding parts.

Mark Shum, adept at goofy charm, shows some new moves by turning the troubled Dorian into a sad clown. His scenes with Taylorson's Elliot crackle. Lambert and Cabe have the less showy roles as Carl and Alan, but they're both terrific. And young Meg Bauman holds her own against the older guys as the talented waif with a will of iron.

Opus builds to a violent crescendo and an ending that is an almost too-neat tying up of a multi-stringed plot. Contrived? Yes. Ma non troppo.

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