"Are you in it?" the hundred or so guests packed into Jane and Terry Quinn's Capitol Hill town house are asking each other.
The curtain is about to go up on "Rasputin," a musical play "in progress" written and directed by the acted in by Terry Quinn, but there have been few full-cast rehearsals and some fellow actors are strangers. Mitchell Strauss, a banker with Riggs, is in the chorus.
"We belong to the same health club as the Quinns," she explains, "and my husband was in the whirlpool with Terry and found out about the show . . ."
Dayle Berke, a Federal Trade Commission lawyer, plays the czar's daughter Olga and dances in a "foxy foursome" with fellow princesses Maria, Anastasia and Tatiana.
Marshall Hendricks, a tall, graying man in a Kelly green jacket, who is carrying empty wine bottles to the trash can, confesses that he's not in it but is a potential backer and has come down from New York for the show.
"A show is like an oil well," he explains. "You put your money in a hole in the ground, and you could lose everything. But if it produces, it can pay for 20 or 30 years. 'Oklahoma!' is still earning royalties."
At a signal, the group moves across the street to the home of Ann and David Johnson, where Terry Quinn is chucking dialogue, rewriting music with pianist Carl Barnwell, and adding a part for the 8-year-old daughter of his literary agent who tried out for "Annie" but didn't make it.
"There are a few too many people, but I have no regrets," says Quinn, leaving the dining room for the cast of 40, including eight musicians. As cellist James Lieberman plays Rasputin's theme, the mad monk -- in real life Robert Krughoff, editor of Washington Consumers' Checkbook -- pledges to "give a true accounting of myself by summoning the spirits of past allies and enemies."
"He's spicier than hash in a pan . . ." belts out the czarina, Ann Johnson, in a love-hate, torchy blues number about "That Mean Mother Russian Man."
Between the acts, cast and audience party with beer, wine and Russian food -- pirozhki, kulebiaka , caviar and smoked sable fish.
"We were going to do stuffed cabbage, but we were afraid it would be on everybody's shirt front," says Jane Quinn, a "sex educator" with Population Options who prepared the food with the help of neighbors and Terry's mother, part of a large contingent of Quinns down from Queens for the event.
"Is that your real hair?" someone asks the gray-thatched. Krughoff.
"Now ask him about his nose," coaches another guest.
Quinn has donned earrings, pearls, a peasant shirt and a red sash for his entrance as the gay prince who does Rasputin in.
When the mad, bad monk is murdered -- to a French gavotte -- the cast carries his body to the Neva in a New Orleans-style funeral march, sung by Quinn in a fur coat and feather boa and danced by his two bodyguards in Runyonesque suits and fedoras. The foot-stomping funeral march is the finale, and, after introducing his family to the cheering audience, Quinn, his cherubic Irish face glistening with sweat, answers the inevitable question.
"Why Rasputin? I've always been fascinated by him, and I'd been working on a novel about him. I read about 30 books for it at the Library of Congress, but it wasn't going well," says Quinn, 35, who has published one spy novel and is under contract to co-author the autobiography of a Chinese businesswoman and bridge champion. "The day after I saw 'Sweeney Todd,' I started working on this show. I'd never written any music before but a few years ago my sister gave me a little plastic recorder . . ."