It’s Fringe season, so when you tell folks at the tent you’re off to In Search of The Perfect G-String they’re to be forgiven for their assumption you’re headed to one of the several burlesque troupes competing for your Baldacchino-bucks. But smile knowingly, educated Fringe-goer, and explain that your destination is of a more gentle, classical bent.
The punny title refers to the most problematic string on the cello. Seems on pretty much all cellos there’s a “wolf” spot, a teeny-tiny little imperfection in the neck, usually near the G string, that can cause an instrument to come down with an unfortunate cause of laryngitis.
That’s a high-drama, shudder-inducing thought to the National Symphony Orchestra’s Yvonne Caruthers. See, we’ve got ourselves a ringer here at CapFringe. Caruthers has been playing with the NSO since 1978 and has toured the globe with world class symphonies. She operates at a level of talent and technique rare to the performing arts as a whole, much less a Fringe festival. Branching out from the symphony hall, she now, brings the story of her career to the scrappy halls of Fringe.
More autobiography than private concert, G-String gets off to a slow start. After carrying on stage an instrument almost bigger than herself, Caruthers hardly touches the cello for a good twenty minutes. It’s an almost unbearable tease. The early parts of the show are nearly pure monologue as Caruthers details the story of her first encounters with classic music, and her eventual early career struggles as a female musician.
The small-town-girl-makes-it-big-stuff is a bit on the generic side. Later portions, as Caruthers’ career begins to take off, rely too much on name and location drops. Caruthers assumes an audience of classical music aficionados who are going to get her references and know the importance of her collaborators immediately. The rest of us will be dying for some context as we try to keep up.
In Search of the Perfect G-String
by Yvonne Caruthers and Theresa Gambacorta
at Caos on F
923 F Street NW
Washington, DC, 20004
Details and tickets
The storytelling sections are gentle, inoffensive, and fair-to-middling. Once Caruthers does starting playing in earnest, though, G-String soars. The intimacy of the CAOS on F space means that no audience member is further than 15 feet from a world-class musician playing her heart out and that’s an experience all humans should have once in their lives regardless of taste in genre.
The night is never sexier than when Caruthers details the origins of each and every part of her instrument, the value of which probably matches the budget for 20 other Fringe shows combined. Caruthers’ impossibly nimble fingers gently, lovingly move over every peg, panel and string. It’s a sight to behold and a feast for the ears.
Your humble reviewer admits to only a layman’s knowledge and appreciation for classical music, but at her opening night performance Caruthers was clearly playing to a friendly audience who nodded sagely at references to composers and specific concertos of which I claim no expertise.
Your mileage may vary. I personally wanted more music with the biography. But let it be said that the evening ended with the first chants of “brava!” I’ve ever heard at a Fringe show as the audience rose collectively, passionately, to its feet.