Wednesday, April 17, 2024

"Lend Me a Tenor" by Expressions Community Theater at Lakeville Arts Center

Last weekend, I went from the sublime to the ridiculous - in a good way! After spending the day at Guthrie Theater for the opening of their sublime triumph of three of Shakespeare's History Plays performed in rep, I headed out to my old home town Lakeville for Expressions Community Theater's production of Ken Ludwig's ridiculous and hilarious farce Lend Me a Tenor. I usually don't have time to see community theater, but Expressions performs in my childhood church, next door to the elementary school I attended, both of which have been converted into Lakeville Arts Center. After watching professional theater artists from around the country in an epic creation, it was also great to watch community theater actors working just as hard to create a fun (if less epic) afternoon at the theater. Moral of the story: check out your local community theater to see what they're doing, and support their work, or even get involved in a production. Our strong community theater scene feeds our professional theaters, and vice versa, and that's what makes #TCTheater great. And if you're in the South Metro, you have one more weekend to see this delightfully ridiculous play.

The action of the play takes place all in one crazy day, upon the arrival of a famous Italian opera singer in Cleveland for a one night only performance of Verdi's Otello (we even get to hear a bit of it and it sounds pretty good, thanks to vocal consultant Anna Hashizume). The opera company's manager Saunders (Charlie Schoemaker) and his harried assistant and possible future son-in-law Max (Michael Turner) are waiting for him at his hotel room, Saunders having shooed away his daughter/ Max's girlfriend/ opera fan girl Maggie (Anjeline Mae Ramirez). When Tito (Scott Michael Swanson) arrives unexpectedly with his jealous (with good cause) wife Maria (Sher U-F), he's feeling a little under the weather. He skips rehearsal, and then due to a hilarious set of circumstances becomes indisposed and unable to perform, leading to lots of scrambling and hijinks to pull off the performance. Add to these circumstances a fan boy bellhop (Stephen Simusa), ambitious opera singer Diana (Andie Moore), and the opera's chairwoman Julia (Courtney Marti), each of whom have their own agenda, and you have lots of opportunities for wacky fun! (If I'm being vague about the plot, it's only because the surprise and unexpectedness of it is half the fun.)*

photo by Alex Thor Petterson
Director Megan Gooden brings out all of the broad comedy of the script, with the help of her cast, and keeps them running around the set, which consists of a hotel suite with two mirror rooms, and no less than six doors. Because in a farce, more doors = more funny, and that's certainly true here! The cast runs in and out of the doors with such dizzying speed you almost can't keep up with them. Highlights include Michael Turner as Max, with over-the-top reactions but still oddly endearing; Charlie Schoemaker as Saunders, the two a great comedy duo; Scott Michael Swanson's mustachioed, toupéed, and Italian-accented Tito; Sher U-F as the stereotypical gum-smacking Italian wife with big hair and too much make-up; and Anjeline Mae Ramirez, bringing a bit of grounded humanity as Maggie. All of them are dressed in colorful character-appropriate costumes.

Expressions Community Theater's ridiculously fun production of Lend Me a Tenor continues through April 21 at Lakeville Arts Center. Next up: Tom Stoppard's commentary on theater criticism The Real Inspector Hound - sounds like I'll be making a trip to the old church again this summer.

*Plot summary borrowed from my review of Old Log Theatre's 2018 production.