WWBHD: What would Benny Hill do?
by Michael Dresdner
Max (Daniel Wood) and Maggie (Kate Alden)
Forget subtlety and dramatic nuance. Lend Me a Tenor at Centerstage is farce in its purest form; fast-paced humor filled with improbable situations, mistaken identity, physical comedy, verbal gags, and very broad portrayals of pure, bawdy nonsense. Its sole purpose is to make you laugh, and this outstanding cast, directed by Vince Brady, is certain to do so.
The plot serves mostly as a vehicle for zany antics, outrageous behavior, and an excuse to rapidly open and slam a myriad of doors. It all takes place in a pleasant, realistic set designed by Michael Ward that consists of the two rooms of a hotel suite. Along with the other amenities, one has a bed and the other a large couch, and yes, both will be used, simultaneously, for just what you expect.
It’s mostly irrelevant and quite convoluted, but here’s a quick synopsis. Famed operatic tenor Tito (Chris Maxfield) arrives in Cleveland for a guest performance of Othello, along with his sharp-tongued wife, Maria (Alyson Soma), and not one, but two Othello costumes, including ample black face makeup. Opera manager Saunders (Bob De Dea) frets and shouts about Tito’s late arrival while his daughter Maggie (Kate Alden) and her suitor, Saunders’ factotum Max (Daniel Wood) try to calm him. A bellhop (Zack Wheeler) with designs on an opera career adds to the havoc trying for an introduction.
Tito’s wife leaves him after finding Maggie in his room, who’s there because she wants a fling with Tito before settling down with Max. Upset, Tito takes too many tranquilizers and is assumed dead by Saunders and Max. They decide Max will don Othello’s costume and makeup and perform in Tito’s place. Meanwhile, Tito wakes, dresses as Othello, but is barred from entering the theater. Back in his rooms after the opera, a very confused Tito fends off Julia (Rosalie Hilburn), the opera chairwoman, but succumbs to the wiles of Diana (Alexandra Novotny), the opera soprano eager to sleep her way to the top. In the adjoining room, Max, still dressed as Othello, is seduced by Maggie, who thinks Max is Tito.
Confused yet? It gets crazier. Soon, everyone is running around, slamming doors, and generally making a hash of things until, Maria returns, all is sorted out, and the proverbial happy ending conquers all.
There’s no point calling out the actors individually; every single one was top notch, each dutifully and adroitly overplaying his or her role in a nod to the gods of exaggerated theatrical farce. Costumes by Rachel Wilkie were excellent, as was lighting and sound, both by Amy Silveria.
Armed with a superb cast and crew, this wonderful production of Lend Me a Tenor is a perfect excuse to forget the troubles of the real world and indulge in laughter as two hours of pure hilarity fly by. You’d be crazy to miss this divine slice of on-stage crazy.
Lend Me a Tenor
March 1st to 24th, 2013