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Lend Me A Tenor

We never go to Wednesday matinees.  Too much like lollygagging, I guess, plus a girl gotta draw the line somewhere.  But Ellen's parents are in town for the holidays, we'd bought the tickets for them, they decided they'd rather see South Pacific (and who could blame them?), and we're not the women to let a pair go begging.  So we abandoned the broken dishwasher and the plates piled on the dining table and fled took the subway to The Great White Way for a little light entertainment.

Which we most certainly got.  Lend Me A Tenor is a perfect classic farce in the fine old tradition of Feydeau, complete with slamming doors, girls hiding in closets and bathrooms, hi-jinx, over-complicated intrigues, double entendres, and mistaken identities.  It is set in 1934, and sufficiently true to the feel of the period that I was astonished to discover that its first production was in London in 1986.

A lot of the comedy depends on the twists and turns of a truly Byzantine plot.  Since some of you might actually be in a position to see the play, it would be unfair of me to say too much about who does what to whom and why (not that I can remember--I don't tend to retain plot points).  I can tell you that the set is beautiful, in an overblown hotel-suite kind of way, the costumes are catnip to a clothing slut like myself, the directing is crisp and beautifully timed, as farce must be.  Tony Shalub as an irascible opera producer is extremely funny, as is an actor called Jay Klaitz who does his level best to make a real person out of an opera-struck bellhop who bounces in and out of the action like a human rubber ball.  I was very fond of Anthony LaPaglia, too, as the eponymous tenor, who turns on a dime from lust to uxoriousness, from despair to confusion, from star quality to human concern for a fellow artist, without ever losing his character along the way.   The women are good, too, given that their roles are generally more cardboard than the men's.  Which is, come to think of it, also a feature of classic farce.

Besides the flatness of the female characters, my only real complaint is that The Greatest Tenor of His Generation has a voice I would describe as perfectly pleasant, and the Other Tenor Who Wows The Audience has a voice I would describe as adequate.  I found it hard to believe either one of them would actually be able to make it all the way through a performance of Otello without falling flat on his face.  Also, I gotta say, this one didn't really stick with me.  Although I laughed a lot as we watched it, I don't retain a single line.  But why should I?  It's not a play about the words.  It's about the way Tony Shalub slowly curls his body into a comma of torment as he realizes that his Show May Not Go On, the way Justin Bartha as the assistant dog's body Max gains mass and years at the swish of a cloak, the way the wonderful Jan Maxwell as the Tenor's wife tears the bed apart in a jealous Italian temper tantrum. 

It also has the best curtain call I think I've ever seen, in which the entire cast runs about the stage, reprising the whole play in a series of well-chosen moments, ending with the ingenue and the assistant dog's body locked in a well-earned romantic dip.  The Wednesday afternoon matinee crowd loved it to pieces.  And so, really, did I.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
dramaturgca
Apr. 3rd, 2010 02:13 am (UTC)
That is a spectacular cast. I really really wish I was going to get to see it.
deliasherman
Apr. 3rd, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
It would make a great TV special, but I guess it would cost too much to tape and broadcast it. Pity.
cerulean_sky
Apr. 3rd, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
I thought you guys would like it!! And I'm thrilled to hear that you did!

The curtain call is definitely one of the more amazing parts of that play. Apparently it's something that's just done with this particular play. A friend of mine starred as Max in his high school production of Lend Me A Tenor and they did the two-minute play re-enactment as the curtain call too.

Yay! I'm glad you liked it!
deliasherman
Apr. 3rd, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
I'm having a little trouble picturing this as a high school production, what with the bumping and grinding in Act 2. I guess hs students aren't as easily reduced to giggles these days. (heh)
ellen_kushner
Apr. 3rd, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
I would just like to say that my parents were merely pawns in my game of TDF Roulette: I bought them the Tenor tix faute de mieux. and then when SPacific suddenly appeared, I decided they'd like it better. You know you wanted to see Tenor all along, dear.
kalimac
Apr. 3rd, 2010 07:43 am (UTC)
It is set in 1934, and sufficiently true to the feel of the period that I was astonished to discover that its first production was in London in 1986.

For one brief, truly surreal moment, I thought you wrote that the first production was in 1896, setting the play in the future, years 38 ...
deliasherman
Apr. 3rd, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
That would indeed be surreal--and kind of neat.
huladavid
Apr. 3rd, 2010 12:08 pm (UTC)
I swoon with delight - if only because of "uxoriousness".
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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