Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Lend Me A Tenor"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark

"Lend Me A Tenor"

by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Marisa Echeverria

Scenic Design by Daniel O. Scully
Lighting Design by Ryan McGee
Costume Design by Erin Billings
Sound Design by Matt Daniels
Stage Manager Mira S. Burghardt

Producers: Jennie Connery, Erica Rabbit & Lano Williams

Max...........................Paul Siemens
Maggie.....................Jessica Shapiro
Saunders.......................Erik Amblad
Tito Merelli.................Jim Augustine
Maria......................Jessica Jackson
Bellhop.........................Will Burke
Diana.........................Marg Jillson
Julia.....................Catherine Ingman

(You're still reading?!?!? While Other People are busy reserving YOUR seats at this incredibly funny show? Where are your priorities?)

You only need to know two things about this show. First, Ken Ludwig's "Lend Me A Tenor" is a flat-out, over-the-top, door-slamming farce and it is done to perfection by this cast and crew. Second, Daniel O. Scully's two-hotel-room set is quite cramped so that the three producers could cram as many hysterically giggling, gufffawing patrons as possible into the tiny Loeb Experimental Theatre (that's the little room out behind the big room) as possible, but seating is, as they say, limited. So the third of the two things you need to know is that you must call 1(617)496-2222 to beg for tickets. So, though I will write some more irrelevantly trenchant comments, don't read them. Make that call. Now.

Okay, trenchant.
(I'm thinking, I'm Thinking!!!) Well, since I just read Anthony Burgess' brilliant fictional biography of Will Shakespeare ("Nothing Like The Sun"), I can equate these characters with what Ben Jonson referred to as "the humours" --- meaning character traits that dictate a character's reactions to every situation. These "humorous" characters were catalogued by Roman critics, but were brought to a perfect pitch by the itinerant Italian Commedia del'Arte commedians during (or was it after?) Jonson's day.

In this play Tito Merelli (Jim Augustine) comes to the Cleveland Opera Company with two (that's plot-wise significant!) costumes for his role in "Otello" (The Italians never could spell so good). His humour is that of an egotist and a womanizer, but his wife (Jessica Jackson) is along this time --- and her humour (why do they spell it so peculiarly?) is Jealousy!

In fact, every woman in this play has a specific orientation toward Tito Merelli's sexuality. Diana (Marg Jillson) sings Desdemona opposite him (Thankfully OFF-stage; I hate the caterwauling they call Opera; but I digress) but is eager to further her operatic career in New York by Whatever Means Necessary [nudge-nudge, wink-wink]. Julia the ChairWoman of the Cleveland Opera Committee (Catherine Ingman) just wants to get into his pants. Maggie, the impressario's daughter (Jessica Shapiro) is just a dewy-eyed virgin fan eager to ... demostrate her love of his ... talents. Maria his wife (Jessica Jackson) is determined to leave him if any of these predatory "fans" seems even remotely to succeed. Then there's the Bellhop (Will Burke) who would be content with a photo or an autograph --- but he's not in this paragraph about sex for nothing, now is he!

Erik Amblad's Impressario (Henry Saunders is his name) isn't interested in sex, he's interested in money. He is the ultimate dimented boss, and his comic timing is impeccable.

His factotum Max (Paul Siemens) is the only multi-dimensional (or many-humourous) character in the play. He has proposed to the dewy-eyed virgin, but knows that if --- heaven forfend! --- Tito ("Il Stupendo") Merelli should be for any reason indisposed (or, let's face it, Dead!) he, Max, could sing "Otello" with or without an "h" and astound the English speaking world. (Remember those TWO costumes I telegraphed back in paragrpah four? Well, if you insist on reading this stupid review instead of going to see the show, you ought to expect Some plot-necessities to be revealed, shouldn't you? Sheeesh!) But, rest assured, this is a Comedy, and so everyone emerges from the right beds for the obligatory happy-ending and even extra curtain-calls before still snickering crowds --- of which you will probably NOT be one unless you pick up that damn phone and dial 1(617)496-2222. Hell, it might already be too late.

What do you read these reviews FOR? I told you right up there at the top that everything I'd say would be irrelevant to the fact that this is a Really Funny Show you Should Go See.

Just what words in that sentence don't you understand?


Oh yeah. Director Marisa Echeverria must have done something right, even if it was just to restrain her cast from going farther over the top than the should; or maybe encouraging them to go father over the top than they had ever believed possible. Anyway, she must have known in those cold, uninhabited rehearsal rooms, that the show would play twice as long as any run-through because of the added laughs. Either way, she done good and now that the show is the property of the cast and its audience rather than its director, whatever she did deserves praise.

"Lend Me A Tenor" (till 11 July)
Loeb Ex, 64 Brattle Street, CAMBRIDGE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide