“What a farce!” We use the term for something misbegotten, something out of control. But onstage, few things require more control than farce. This style turns the volume of comedy up to 11, using a combination of rapid, clever dialogue, frantic movement, and character misunderstandings that require all kinds of understanding for the cast to pull them off.
Lend Me a Tenor is a revered member of the Hall of Farce for a reason: It delivers everything we expect from this genre, and it delivers it perfectly. So does Robert Egizio’s crack(ed) company in this sterling production, already a “Suzi-recommended” show (a high honor given to deserving local productions).
Ken Ludwig, who also brought us the similar “Moon Over Buffalo,” sets his play in the questionable realm of opera circles, c. 1934. Not that the plot is of eternal importance, but we have one Tito Morelli, renowned Italian tenor, on his way to perform Otello—and come to grips, in some fashion, with various willing female opera aficionados. Except that his stomach is not cooperating, which may have something to do with a dramatic wife who has made the trip.
At this point, wine, tranquilizers, backstage romances, ambitious bellhops, arts patrons, closets, wax fruit, tacky makeup, and even a pleasing aria or two ensue. The craziness just keeps ratcheting up, until somehow, of course, things get so scattered that they work out just right—that’s farce for you.
Egizio’s casting, as always, is flawless, as are the fine pace and blocking, so critical for such a play. The curtain call alone is worth the price of admission; we won’t spoil it for you here.
John Markowski is Max, the nervous, overwrought assistant to the Cleveland Opera’s General Manager. Markowski has just the right mix of jitters for his role. Playing Max’s love interest is Kelly Chapin Schmidt as Maggie: sweet and innocent, though not enough to keep her from the “fling” of her dreams.
Larry Ruth gives us an amazing Tito, and the play hits on all cylinders in his scenes. Eliana Marianes is Tito’s jealous wife, Maria. She’s a terrific physical comedienne.
Mark Gray is Saunders, the general manager with his career on the line. Gray and Markowski have great chemistry. Rounding out the cast are Charlie Bradshaw (stealing every scene, as usual) as an energetic bellhop, Megan Hayes as Diana, the opera company’s local diva, and Karen Whitaker as Julia, the chairwoman of the Opera Guild. Hayes is humorous as she tries to seduce her way to the top. And Whitaker brings her usual finesse to her performance.
Set Designer Chuck Welcome has created a simple yet beautiful set for the show with lovely art deco detailing. There is little music, but the arias, directed by Linda Uzelac, are magical moments. Lovely costumes (Jim Alford) and wigs (George Deavours) are perfectly in keeping with the 1930s setting. Completing the technical design are John David Williams (lighting) and Dan Bauman (sound).
Performances of “Lend Me A Tenor” continue through June 10, with shows on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and on Sunday afternoons at 2:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $26 for adults, $24 for senior adults, and $22 for students. Stage Door Players is located at 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. For more information or to reserve tickets, contact the Box Office at 770-396-1726, by email at email@example.com or stagedoorplayers.net.