A Frolicking Farce: LEND ME A TENOR Sings Through September at MN Players

by Ginger Agnew

Tito (Jim Fryer) is consoled by Max (Thomas-Robert Irvin) in MN Players/Spotlight Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s LEND ME A TENOR.

Slamming doors, mistaken identities, hiding in closets, and a keystone cop finale abound in Ken Ludwig’s LEND ME A TENOR, currently playing at MN Players’ new location at 129 Park Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081.  MN Players will undergo a name change during 2012 to become Spotlight Theatre.  For the current 72ndseason of 2012-2013 the group is operating under the name MN Players/Spotlight Theater.  The ‘new’ location is an intimate space within a church, housing a stage with an expanded apron to allow for plenty of action.

The action of LEND ME A TENOR takes place in a Cleveland, Ohio hotel suite during the 1940’s.  During one chaotic day the cast of crazy characters cavorts in an endless cavalcade of confusion.  A theater producer who awaits his star tenor, finds that he is both drunk and sick.  The future son-in-law of the producer, an opera singing wannabe begs for his big break.  The plot features the mistaken identities of the tenor and the opera star, lust and love, anger and deception, and unraveling and re-raveling of relationships and careers and a misinterpreted deeply sleeping tenor.

Max (Thomas-Robert Irvin) receives the sweet-talk treatment from Diana (Heather Ferrel) in MN Players/Spotlight Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s LEND ME A TENOR, directed by Timothy P. Oskin,playing through Sept. 22, including a Sunday matinee on Sept. 16.

Thomas-Robert Irvin as Max delivers the heart, stress, tension, and exasperation of the exhausting situation in which he finds himself.  Irvin brings the farce to life with his rich baritone, energy and commitment.  Using every one of the 6 doors to exit, enter, hide and search for others, Irvin keeps the audience engaged and laughing out loud.  He adroitly portrays two characters with expert differentiation, humor and gusto, allowing us to believe his fiancé would mistake him for another.  As the bombastic theater producer Saunders, Michael Mogar delivers a beleaguered character fraught with tension and the imagination to be a theater producer.  Jim Fryer brings the famous tenor Tito to life with an Italian bravado worthy of the Met.  His humorous portrayal allows the audience a glimpse into the innermost foibles of a man at the top of his career who becomes embroiled in more than he can handle with this company.  Cindy Nagle Walton portrays Maria, the exasperated and domineering Italian wife of Tito with aplomb.  Heather Ferrel, as Diana delivers the sirens song, as a soprano temptress who seduces her way through the scenes with her sex-appeal and sparkling gowns.  Margherita Carrieri-Russo plays the easily duped Maggie with a wide-eyed gullibility.  Cecile Macphee glitters her way through her performance in a frock reminiscent of the Chrysler Building.  As the temporary Bellhop, the show’s director, Timothy P. Oskin proved that the show must go on and stepped in to save the day since the actor he cast suffered a recent broken wrist and was unable to perform.  In this reviewer’s opinion, it might have added humor to have the Bellhop as a one armed worker.

Maria (Cindy Nagle Walton) and Tito (Jim Fryer) can’t get their marital feelings in sync in MN Players/Spotlight Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s LEND ME A TENOR.

Making the 1940’s timeframe convincing is the eye-catching set of curved lines with art deco influence.  A floor standing cabinet radio is another timely addition to the set.  The set worked well for the farce structure with six visible doors and a good vantage point for all members of the audience to peek into the shenanigans behind closet, kitchen, bathroom, entry and dividing doors.  One particular Lucille Ball/Harpo Marx inspired moment allowed for actors on either side of the dividing door to mirror actions for enhanced audience enjoyment.

LEND ME A TENOR will continue through weekends in September.  The show does feature some minor coarse language and mature physical and costume content.  For younger audience members there is a short period of time during which their companions may want them to step outside.  To make sure everyone has a good time, older teens and adults might best enjoy the show without younger family members in tow.  For those who enjoy a good farce, an evening with LEND ME A TENOR will let you leave with a grin.

by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Timothy P. Oskin
September 7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 21 and 22, 2012
MN Players/Spotlight Theater
129 Park Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081

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