Lend Me A Tenor by Ken Ludwig, Ciitizen’s Bank Performing Arts Series,The Palace Theatre, 1/13/12-1/28/12, http://www.palacetheatre.org/event-calendar.aspx?event=442&dt=1/13/2012&category=ALL.
Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook
(Manchester, NH) They usually don’t hand out acting awards for comedies, and that is a crying shame. Is it really harder for an actor to emote than pratfall down the stairs a dozen times a show? Is biting dialogue really harder to memorize than fifty quick entrances and exits? A farce may be light on character development, but it is a full-court press of physicality and split-second acting.
Acting purists can burn me in effigy now, but there ought to be some Purple-Heart equivalent of an award for the cast of the stellar production of the Palace Theatre’s Lend me a Tenor, if only for the shear physicality and split-second timing required to pull off such a ridiculous play. Sure, character development and believability have to be sacrificed at moments in this play to keep the action going, but it’s all done in the name of entertainment. The cast at least should get a golden bottle of Advil for its troubles.
Lend Me a Tenor is a classic bedroom farce with a silly plot. A second-rate Cleveland opera house in the twenties lands Tito Merelli (Randall Frizado), a golden-voiced tenor who makes the knees of opera lovers weak. Opera house gopher Max (Gus Curry) is charged by his boss, Saunders (Dan Fenaughty), to make sure Tito arrives at the theater without getting his hands on booze or women, two of the opera star’s downfalls. If Max were to succeed in his mission, this would be a very short play.
Luckily for us, Tito’s wife, Maria (Jenna Kantor) finds Max’s girlfriend, Maggie (Jessica Moryl) in the opera star’s closet and leaves the opera star. A bereft Tito appears to accidentally overdose on sleeping bills and Saunders asks Max to stand in as the opera star for the performance. Go back and read those two sentences again; I’ll wait. Yeah, it’s that kind of ridiculous.
It would be a shame to give away the hi-jinks that happens next, but I don’t think I could even describe it articulately. Let’s just say there are a lot of histrionics, mistaken identities, slammed doors and people jumping on one another.
The production features a strong cast. Curry is saddled with so much to do on stage as Max that it would be easy to miss just how good his performance is. Kudos also goes to Kantor for going to the mat to wring the humor out of every syllable of the hell-hath-no-fury Maria. But my personal favorite of the cast to watch was Fenaughty, whose Saunders projects a cross between Cary Grant and John Cleese as he comes unhinged.
It’s a shame that no one will remember this play in a hundred years, but maybe it’s meant to be an in-the-moment Zen thing. The blackface makeup already is hard to take in the 21st century, so I don’t think our children will be talking about this one. Go see it now. If you don’t laugh out loud at this play, there’s something wrong with you.