Lend Me a Tenor

Many comedies are dopey and need a good production to bring them to life. 

It seems I have seen this story many times.  The tenor isn’t really dead, the couple aren’t really engaged.  Okay sometimes it is a murder victim who isn’t really dead and a clergyman who isn’t really ordained.  Same story, same misunderstandings.

But not every production is blessed with the presence of Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia, Justin Bartha and the rest of this fine cast.  I had pre-judged Tony Shalhoub from his television series, Monk.  I didn’t care for the character & wrote him off, not very optimistic about his performance in this play.  Therein lies a lesson about prejudice.  Shalhoub was nothing like the Monk character and he was great in this role.  Given this fine supporting cast the play succeeds. 

As farces go it is neither the worst nor the best.  Sure we know the tenor is just overdosed on sleeping pills and not really dead.  And, just as we recognize Superman in Clark Kent, we recognize that Max isn’t famed operatic tenor Tito Merelli even though all those onstage are fooled by the duplicate costumes.  We know that Maggie doesn’t really sleep with Tito but with Max, so there is no morality sacrifice. It is said that everything works out for the best.  I am not so sure what is best for this motley crew of characters but the actors do a superlative job.  Stanley Tucci’s direction is fine–no mean feat with up to eight bodies cavorting on stage at once;  he keeps them tidy. 

In a final quasi mini-scene, the action is recapped with the cast fast-forwarding through all the play’s significant moves.  I have never seen such a device before and was impressed with the concept and the execution, not to mention the extraordinary choreography with eight people moving so quickly in such close proximity.  A fun play.  No life lessons, no moral uplift, no poignant pathos.  Just good funny fun, one of the things we most seek in theatre.