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Theater: Lend Me A Tenor
by MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
2004-02-18

This article shared 3556 times since Wed Feb 18, 2004
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Playwright: Ken Ludwig

At: Theater At The Center, 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana

Phone: (219) 836-3255; $25-$35

Runs through: March 7

Everybody wants Tito Merelli, the 'greatest tenor of our age.' Maria, his wife, wants him to stay away from the wine and the groupies. Henry Saunders, general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, and Julia, chairwoman of the Opera Guild, want him to enhance their season. Naive Maggie wants him to show her some romantic attention. Sexy prima donna Diana wants him to boost her career. And Max, Saunders' put-upon assistant, wants him to go away—Max, you see, is a cantatore wannabe, aspiring to sing the lead role in Verdi's Otello (it's 1934, when palefaces still played the Moor) and win the hand of the lovely Maggie.

Ken Ludwig's Lend Me A Tenor vied with I Hate Hamlet as the most frequently produced play of the 1990s. An old-fashioned farce Like They Used To, this madcap comedy delivers chases through four doors and a double closet, pretty girls scampering about in their scanties, an overdose of sleeping pills, men struggling to move a large comatose body, two fugitives in Othello drag, tchotchkes tossed and caught in the nick of time, slow burns, seductive posturings and a sweet rendition of 'Dio, che nell'alma infondere' from act two, scene one of Don Carlo. In the end, the lovers are united, the foolish enlightened, and the pretentious humbled.

Scenic designer Robert C. Martin has provided director David Mink a stylish art-deco hotel room for his ensemble of veteran troupers to execute their nimble-footed antics (these include an imaginary-wall stunt that needs to be introduced into the action sooner, and an energy-sapping instant-replay of the entire story during curtain call). Dale Benson and Lolly Trauscht—respectively, Henry for his third time of record, and Julia for her second—are given top billing and carte blanche. David Girolmo and Frances Limoncelli lend panache to their portrayals of the stereotypical Signore e Signora Merelli. Linda Parsons and Gail Rastorfer are a suitably decorative pair of babes, and Jerry Galante's audacious bellboy makes the most of his onstage time.

But Sean Fortunato goes beyond the call of duty to render the hapless Max a hero of depth and alacrity whose triumph is as well-deserved as it is heartily applauded.


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