Hangar Theatre's "Rollicking, Kinetically-Charged Ludwig Farce"
Hanger Opens Season with a Farce
By Tony Curulla
The Post Standard
Hangar Theatre in Ithaca opens its 2012 season with “Lend Me a Tenor”, a rollicking, kinetically-charged farce by playwright Ken Ludwig. Hangar’s Peter Flynn directs.
Despite Ludwig’s American pedigree, this play has a very “English” feel with its dry wit, liberal smatterings of double entendre, mistaken identities, large portions of door slamming, and characters scurrying about the stage with intent to dissemble, a la “ Fawlty Towers”, “Benny Hill”, and scads of others in that British comedic tradition.
One difference, however, between “Tenor” and some of the others is the fact that this piece is genuinely funny.
Set in a rather plush hotel suite in Cleveland, Ohio in 1934, the comedy of the piece is timeless. Other than the costuming and some of the furnishings, Ludwig’s premise and dialogue are fresh and independent of a chronological milieu.
Henry Saunders (Michael McCormick), general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, is all atwitter as he awaits the anticipated arrival of a world famous tenor, Tito Merelli (Christopher Shyer). McCormick is hilarious in the role as the embattled manager exuding behaviors and commentary befitting of a Danny DeVito-like character, seasoned with a pinch of Joe Pesci.
Shyer’s Merelli is a casting director’s dream: handsome, independent, and very Italian with just enough accent and hot temperament to do battle with his overly jealous wife, Maria (Janet Dacal) who is more than his match in several verbal marital duels which might be hot and hilarious enough to trigger Hangar’s fire alarms.
At the core of the comedy, of course, is the confusion brought about by “twin” characters whereby the mixed identities serve as catalysts for awkward and inexplicable situations, unintended double entendre and countless door slams on the stage’s beautifully conceived and executed staging by Ken Goldstein.
Max (Daniel Berlingeri), an opera gofer and wannabe and boyfriend to Saunders’ daughter, Maggie (Lindsay Clemmons) is enlisted by Saunders to play Merelli’s role as Otello when Merelli has passed out (they think he died) from an overdose of tranquilizers taken after another battle royal with Maria. Maggie’s convincing naivete and adoration of Merelli serves to further stoke Max’s youthful jealousy and libido.
Berlingeri’s youth and stature are perfectly suited to the physical demands of the role when, upon waking, Morelli dons his Otello costume, and the inevitable confusion ensues with a non-stop barrage of entrances and exits of the two Otellos in addition to all of the other characters, including Diana (Emily Skinner) a voracious temptress with her eyes and hands on the famous tenor, Julia (Judy Levitt) as the self-deluded opera company chairperson, and a bellhop (Eddie Vona) who provides additional activity and confusion to the mounting situation.
Predictably, like Shakespeare’s mixed identities and odd couples, Ludwig’s also, eventually, come to an “all-is-right-with-the-world” resolve after a near two-hour comic struggle for that equilibrium.
Between Flynn’s spot-on traffic direction and the copious talents of this octet, Hangar has a winner of a comedy that is guaranteed to satisfy the most resistant funny bone.