For the opening of its 104th season, the Players Club of Swarthmore is presenting Ken Ludwig’s uproarious farce, LEND ME A TENOR, with solid results.
Saunders (Michael Steven Schultz), the domineering manager of the prestigious Cleveland Grand Opera Company, and his nervous assistant Max (Ryan Goulden) anxiously await the arrival of the world-renowned Italian opera legendary, Tito Merelli (Robert Welch). Merelli is to perform that evening for the company as the title role in Verdi’s OTELLO. It is expected to be the greatest event in the company’s history. When Tito ultimately arrives, he carries his own set of baggage, not the least of which is his hot-tempered and jealous wife Maria (Donna Dougherty).
After Tito accidentally gets put out of commission, it’s up to Max, who (as plot contrivance would have it) knows all the lyrics to enable him to attempt to secretly stand-in for the opera star. He must try to pull one over not only the audience but also his girlfriend/fiancee Maggie (Allison Gerrard), one of several characters deeply infatuated by Tito, who is seeking out one last fling before she agrees to tie the knot. What follows is a hilarious medley of mistaken identities, double entendres, hiding in closets, and just a whole lot of running around.
PCS’s ensemble cast is wonderful. Goulden as Max exhibits a great knack for physical comedy, although he starts the show a little too over-the-top, which leaves him nowhere to go. Schultz as the stuffed-shirt Saunders, sporting a great haughty accent, plays off him well. Welch and Dougherty are a terrific, boisterous comic pair, working through a gamut of emotions with ease. Gerrard as Maggie is always in character, with spot-on reactions to everything onstage, and is a terrific foil for the more eccentric characters. Karen R. Johnson as a local opera star willing to sleep her way to the top, Janean Clare as the aloof head of the Cleveland Opera Guild, and Kenny Fischer as an overzealous bellhop round out the cast with their own humorous interpretations.
Ruth Wells Fischer clearly understands how to direct a farce and keeps everything moving appropriately fast. The pacing and interplay are suitably tight and the character interactions delectably zany. The opening night audience was in stitches throughout the performance. With so much happening onstage, I doubt five seconds went by without a chorus of laughs. The “suite” set, which allows the audience (but not the characters) to see what’s happening in the living room and the bedroom simultaneously, serves to supplement the humor.
LEND ME A TENOR at PCS is a great two hours of comical mishaps and mayhem. Let your troubles melt away, and let the hilarity ensue!
LEND ME A TENOR
by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Ruth Wells Fischer
September 19 – October 4, 2014
The Players Club of Swarthmore
614 Fairview Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081