Friday, October 09, 2009

'Tenor' offers up a night of light comedy

'Lend Me a Tenor' continues its run at Your Theatre

As with its recent production of “How the Other Half Loves,” M&D Productions has decided to go for a bit of light comedy with “Lend Me a Tenor,” an effervescent throwback to the screwball comedy.

“Lend Me a Tenor,” which opened at Your Theatre in Willow Common in North Conway Oct. 8 and is play Thursday through Saturdays until Oct. 24, centers on the complications involving a performance in Cleveland by Tito
Merelli (Kevin O’Neil), a famous Italian opera singer.

Because of a string of misunderstandings, Max (Andrew Brosnan), the assistant to the opera company’s general manager (Paula Jones) must impersonate Tito, which only results in an increasingly more convoluted series of mistaken identities.

Playwright Ken Ludwig’s script, which first appeared in London in 1986 before moving to Broadway in 1989, is very much in the tradition of the screwball comedy and is even set in the decade in which they flourished: the 1930s. Screwball comedy is often used interchangeably with slapstick, but slapstick is just one of the ingredients of a successful screwball comedy.

The screwball comedy as it emerged in the 1930s was influenced by the farcical comedies of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. Misunderstandings, double entendres, innuendoes and rapid-fire dialogue are mixed with pratfalls and a progressively more anarchic tone. All of these elements are on display in “Lend Me a Tenor.”

There’s a misconception that drama is difficult and comedy is easy, but an exceptionally well-timed comedy is not a simple feat. As with tragedy, the tone, pacing and delivery have to be just right, especially when dealing in the fast-paced screwball genre.

Ludwig’s script ably re-creates the feel of the genre, and director Ken Martin and his cast and crew have mounted a worthy production that is laugh-out-loud funny, especially in the second act where, as is so often the case in this genre, things escalate to a whirlwind of hilarity.

The impressive set, designed by Mark DeLancey, re-creates a lavish luxury hotel and features plenty of doors for slamming as characters run around during the mounting confusion.

O’Neil as Tito and Mary Bastoni-Rebmann as Tito’s wife have a lot of fun with thick, comically over-the-top Italian accents. Bastoni-Rebmann in particular runs with the boisterous Italian stereotype to great effect, and her fights with O’Neil score some of the best laughs in the production.

Brosnan, in his first time on stage, finds his stride when the show kicks into high gear. As a man who finds himself by pretending to be someone else, Brosnan makes a congenial focal point for the insanity.

Karen Gustafson as a woman with a crush on Tito that’s so big it blinds her to the sweet and kind Max truly embraces the rat-a-tat-tat nature of her dialogue. At times she spits her dialogue out so fast it is a wonder she doesn’t pass out.

Carrie Engfer clearly relishes getting to play a vampy actress who seduces a very confused Tito in hopes of getting ahead in show business. In one of the productions best scenes the double entendres are piled on thick and Engfer and O’Neil play it just right.

Paula Jones, in a role traditionally played by a man, has a nice edge to her delivery as the tough and cynical company manager. Eric Jordan and Karen O’Neil add even more well-timed humor to the production as two more fans desperate to get face time with

If the show has any flaw it is that in places the repartee could be delivered even faster, but, chances are, as the run of the show progresses the pace will be picked up in those rare places it does slack.

For more information visit or call 662-7591.

1 comment:

Michael J. Curtiss said...

Quoting Kevin Gardner from the NH Theatre Happenings website:

Quick correction here - the World Premier of Lend Me A Tenor did not occur in London, but right here in New Hampshire at the old American Stage Festival (in Milford), where it featured many of the cast members who made it a Broadway hit, including Walter Bobbie and the great Ron Holgate. The play started out under a different title (it was called 'Opera Buffa' then), which is why Alec may think it originated in the UK.