… Cello, meet Guitar …

A serious classical musician and a rock star — what a wonderful set-up for romance!  It makes for delightful watching, and yet this pleasurable comedy takes up serious issues, and conveys a great deal about what it means to be a musician — or an artist in the largest sense.

James, the leader of a well reputed string quartet that bears his name — he was once a prodigy — is an autocratic dictator.  He contemptuously refuses to consider any of the ideas of the Second Violin, Hal, about how to play the Bach, instead lording over him that he, not Hal, is First Violin, while missing no opportunity to belittle the Viola, Paul, with compulsive sarcasm.  Dissonance is everywhere — and yet they make beautiful music — and hearing some of it is part of the pleasure of attending the play.

Under James’ leadership, rehearsals are rough but the superbly trained professional musicians, driven by their dedication, manage to overcome the huge tensions James sets in their way, and rehearsals continue for their important upcoming Carnegie Hall concert.

Meanwhile, Jonny, a Rock Star whose group has recently dissolved, is searching for

Dissonance by Damian Lanigan, directed by Lonny Price, at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island

Dissonance by Damian Lanigan, directed by Lonny Price, at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island

the next direction his music will take and, having an intuitive sense that there might be something for him in classical music, lands Beth, the beautiful, brainy, profound Cello of the quartet, as his teacher.  The course of their true love runs relatively smooth, with their contrasts in interests, styles, attitudes, and experiences — and all the humor these engender — forming a delicious aura.  But a fascinating strength of this play is that, for all the charm of the dissonant romance, it’s not really about love:  it’s about music — and the love of music.  Will the quartet, with all that’s tearing it apart, make it to the big concert?  If so, how will they do there?  How can harmony emerge from such a mountain of dissonance?

And will Jonny find his new music that he feels he has within his soul?  Is there something unifying about all music — dissonant as Rock and Classical may seem?

In the excellent cast, Daniel Gerroll plays the nasty James, Morgan Spector plays Hal, the mordant, sensitive Second Violin, Robert Stanton, Paul, the browbeaten yet dignified Viola, Rosie Benton the perfect Beth of the Cello, and Gregory Wooddell the hyper yet serious Jonny of the guitar.  Each of these characters comes with a fascinating, specific story and Dissonance reaches a thrilling peak in the last scene, where the resolution of the conflicts emerge, with the help of some dazzling staging!  It’s not fair to say how the human stories play out but — music wins!

Dissonance plays at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island, through June 30th.

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