by Beki Pineda
LEND ME A TENOR – Written by Ken Ludwig; Directed by Warren Sherrill. Produced by Miners Alley Playhouse (1224 Washington, Golden) through August 19. Tickets available at 303-935-3044 or minersalley.com.
Look for a definition of modern farce and you will find Ken Ludwig’s script listed as a prime example of the theatrical form. Farce is characterized by exaggerated and improbable situations resulting in chaos and misunderstanding. That the chaos usually includes a multitude of split second appearances and disappearances accompanied by slamming doors is incidental, but traditional. Think COMEDY OF ERRORS and TARTUFFE all the way up to NOISES OFF and ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS.
Miners Alley captures the form and the silliness with great flair and energy. The improbable situation hinges on the late arrival of a guest tenor at a small opera company who just happens to employ an underappreciated opera singer. It just so happens that this employee has a girlfriend who has a fan crush on the tardy opera singer. It just so happens that the opera singer is late because he is arguing with his wife about his womanizing ways and overeating. It just so happens that, in her anger, the opera singer’s wife leaves him after writing a note that could be taken for a suicide letter. And on and on as the story winds around itself until it comes to a screeching, slamming halt as the hero calmly strolls back onto the set allowing those in the dark about what really happened to go on their merry way and those in on the shenanigans relieved that they “pulled it off.” If this sounds complicated, it’s even more so in the playing and yet – as you watch – crystal clear.
Farce also employs a genuine and palpable sense of danger because of the physical aspects of the production. There are often pratfalls down stairs or people hit in the face with one of those slamming doors. TENOR employs a gentler form of “violent horseplay” in their use of bouncing a character on a bed, ridiculous lovemaking and the inevitable “one door closing as another opens.”
The entire company moves with almost balletic choreography at a nearly breakneck speed while making it seem the most natural thing in the world. Then to top it all off, they do an accelerated curtain call that revisits the high points of the production before taking a bow. They must be exhausted at the end of the evening.
Director Sherrill has pulled together a top notch, ably talented cast and created the controlled chaos within which they live for two hours. Drew Horwitz and Missy Moore return to Miners Alley as Max, the singing assistant, and Maggie, his star struck girlfriend. Drew’s Max is almost mousey and could easily be overlooked . . . . until he receives a singing and living lesson from the Great Tito Merelli, played with gusto by Scott Rathbun. It’s very impressive that both men use their own singing voices in the operatic performances. Tito is basically a simple man with a great voice who likes good food and pretty women. His long suffering wife Maria is portrayed by newcomer to Miners, Eryn Carman. The opera staff is fleshed out by Jeffrey Atherton (it’s about time you returned to a Denver stage!) as Saunders, the General Manager as concerned about spoiling shrimp as about the health of his guest artist; Rachel Darden as the calculating soprano Diana who wants to use her body as well as her voice to get bigger and better roles; and Suzanne Connors Nepi as Julia, the President of the Opera Guild, also willing to throw herself at the Great Tito just for the heck of it. The cast is rounded out by Cole Henson as a singing bellhop, also wanting to turn this visit from Tito into a job opportunity. Everybody wants something from Tito and he just wants a nap! What a round up of characters!
Another characteristic of farce is that it generally takes place in one location so that the inevitable quick slips can be more easily orchestrated. In this case, it’s a pretty hotel room designed by Peggy Morgan Stenmark and dressed and painted by Elizabeth Scott-McKean. The lovely evening clothes worn by all the opera attendees were designed by Crystal McKenzie and were appropriate to the 1930’s era of the play.
Three times I can remember laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair: One was watching Kevin Hart in THE ACTOR’S NIGHTMARE at the old Bonfils Theatre; two was the first time I saw the second act of NOISES OFF with the original touring company; three was John Ashton’s production of ESCANABA IN THE MOONLIGHT at the Aurora Fox. This production makes a fourth.
A WOW factor of 9.5!!