Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fun and Farce with DTC's Lend Me a Tenor

Jonathan Silver and Sarah Litzsinger
 Delaware Theatre Company follows its darkly comic season opener Any Given Monday with the decidedly lighter comedy of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me a Tenor, a show business farce packed with slapstick comedy and more actors than the stage has seen since last season's South Pacific. The larger cast isn't the only thing Tenor has in common with DTC's fabulous South Pacific production -- the two productions share three major-league talented actors, with John Plumpis, Jonathan Silver and Sarah Litzsinger returning to Wilmington stage.

Under the direction of Bud Martin (who, as Executive Director of DTC and stage director of the biggest shows of the last couple of seasons, deserves more than a little credit for bringing the Theatre to its impressive new level), Lend Me a Tenor is an old-fashioned comedy of errors (and triumphs), filled with sexy humor and absurd misunderstandings. Some of the comedy is dark, including the use of a "dead" body as a prop, and some may come off as a bit dated, but the laughter is pretty much non-stop.

Howie Brown, Marcia Hepps, Eileen Cella
Tenor is the story of a young opera company assistant named Max (Silver) who has taken on the duty of handling world-renowned Italian Tenor Tito Merelli (Plumpis) as he arrives for a special performance in 1930s Cleveland. Max is in love with the General Manager's daughter, Maggie (Eileen Cella), who has a crush on Tito and craves a wild romance before she settles down. Max tries to keep the General Manager, Saunders (Tony Braithwaite) calm as they await Tito's late arrival. When he finally shows up, he's accompanied by his fiery-tempered wife, Maria (Tracie Higgins), who finds Maggie in a closet of the luxury suite and, sick of his philandering, leaves him. This sets of a wild chain reaction, as Tito becomes despondent and falls into a deep sleep from an accidental double dose of tranquilizers to calm his nerves; when he won't wake up just before showtime, Max assumes he's committed suicide. But this is the kind of comedy where no one stays dead (or without love) for long, and the second act is full of plots, coverups, and mistaken identities, as well as some over-the-top Othello costumes.

While Tenor is not a musical, it has a couple of brief operatic interludes that could easily be lip-synced by the actors. But not here. Both Plumpis and Silver have beautiful voices, making the operatic moments soar even in their brevity. And both are skilled comic actors, matched by the excitable Braithwaite as Saunders and Howie Brown, who also does some singing, as an enthusiastic bellhop.

The women offer plenty of laughs, too, with Litzinger as vampy soprano Diana, Marcia Hepps as the seductive Chairman of the Cleveland Opera Board, and Cella's Maggie alternating between sweetly flirtatious and adorably goofy. As Maria, Higgins commands attention -- from Tito and the audience.

By the end of the escapade, everyone is where they should be, and everyone is happy. But while it's a light and silly play, its themes of perception and hope leave a lasting impression.

Lend Me a Tenor runs through November 3. Visit delawaretheatre.org to purchase tickets.

No comments:

Post a Comment