‘Lend Me a Tenor’ rings comedic crescendoPublished 9:52am Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Stage Right by Lilah Aas
Have the seemingly endless dreary rainy days of spring gotten you down?
There is a simple antidote for your depression in the sun-filled garden of blooming laughs awaiting you at “Lend Me a Tenor,” ACT’s latest production.
Ken Ludwig’s award-winning play, under the able direction of Steven Kinney, contains everything a good farce should: mistaken identities, doors opening and closing, people running around in manic disarray, and clever dialog. Kinney has assembled a solid ensemble to sow the seeds of laughter throughout the performance.
On a gala night at the Cleveland Opera Company, world-famous tenor Tito Morelli is to perform in Othello. Maggie Saunders, played by Cheyenne Severtson, is in the hotel room listening to Morelli singing on the radio and is obviously thoroughly infatuated with him.
She tells her persistent suitor Max, played by Dustin Smith, about a time she had actually met Morelli and how exciting it had been. Although Max has proposed, Maggie is not ready to settle down until she has had a “fling.” When her father, Opera Company Manager Henry Saunders, played by Mark Place, enters the scene he insists that she leave.
While awaiting Morelli’s arrival, Saunders reminds his assistant Max one more time of his duties in watching over the tempestuous Morelli.
Everything has been thought of; nothing can go wrong. Enter Morelli, played by Randy Forster, and almost nothing goes right for the rest of the play.
One of the qualities that needs to be apparent in any good theatrical production is consistency and “Lend Me a Tenor” does not disappoint. The set, designed and built by Kinney, is an invitation to go back in time to an Art Deco world complete with excellent attention to detail.
The costuming and hairstyles also carry the vintage look of the period. The cast from lead to supporting roles all make the most of their characters. From Morelli rationalizing his egotistical way through anything by simply announcing “I’m a Morelli!” to the bellhop, deftly played by Brian Mattson, stating “I’m a bellhop, not a waiter!” they all know who they are.
Or do they? When the plot starts tumbling through the double entendres and innuendoes of Act II, one wonders if the characters are even sure of who they are.
Sheyenne Severtson is appropriately wide-eyed and star struck and has a wonderful comedic sense of pace and a great face. When Tito’s wife Maria, imperiously played by Kristan Dye, finds her in the closet of the bedroom, her facial expression is classic.
In a later scene, however, she proves that she may not be the sweet innocent we thought she was. Ms. Dye consistently brings out the stormy sense of neglect that comes with being Il Stupendo’s wife. She, too, wants to feel the passion of Morelli.
Leading soprano of the opera company Diana, played by Kristi White, shows her duplicitous side in a hilarious conversation with Morelli in which everything she says can be misinterpreted. Chairwoman of the Opera Guild Julia, played with verve by Joyce Mathies, makes the grandest entrance in the show. She sweeps in wearing a plethora of bling only hoping to” meet” the great Tito Morelli. It seems that all of the women want something from Morelli.
One of the strongest aspects of the show is its physical humor and the lion’s share of that comes in the interaction between Max, too often compliant and meek, and Tito, larger than life. The scenes between Forster’s Morelli and Smith’s Max have wonderful physical humor.
When the somewhat drunk and drugged Tito agrees to give Max a singing lesson, it is impossible not laugh. Forster fearlessly plays his role with such gusto that you almost think he really is a Pavarotti clone. Smith gets the opportunity to show wide range of character that is quite impressive. Both Forster and Smith display a marvelous range of emotions both in words, movement and body language.
Mark Place as Saunders is both the protective father and the businessman who is always thinking about how to save the company and save face. He even plans a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” when he believes Morelli is dead. Whether blustering or groveling, Place hits the mark throughout.
Brian Mattson, as the bell-hop, has great comedic timing and a nice, light deft style. Although his is a minor role, he makes it memorable.
The set with its two rooms allows for parallel scenes to take place which is one of the trademarks of a farce — we get to see two ridiculous things happening simultaneously while the characters have no idea what is happening on the other side of the wall.
“Lend Me a Tenor” will give you the opportunity to lose yourself in a zany world where it seems almost anything is possible if you just have confidence and that “P” word — Passion. Your heart will be filled with the sunshine and flowers that laughter can bring. After all, it’s May.
Albert Lea retired teacher Lilah Aas directs one-act plays at Albert Lea High School.
“Lend Me a Tenor” returns to the stage at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. today, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.