By Ea Nicole Madrigal
It was difficult to find anyone leaving the Glendale Centre Theatre on Friday evening who did not sport a giddy smile, or walk away in laughing conversation with his or her theater-going companion after seeing Lend Me A Tenor. Thus, the play can be viewed as an outright success.
If you have never been to Glendale Centre Theater, or GCT, as the folks who manage the theater like to call it, the space provides a welcoming and open theater-in-the-round setting where audience members are provided a 360 degree view of the stage and its actors. This unique experience allows both the actors as well as the audience to engage in the play’s setting and the antics of each scene. And, in Lend Me A Tenor, there are plenty of antics!
The plot features Tito, a well-known operatic star (played by John McCool Bowers), Saunders, an opera house manager (Richard Large), and Max (Michael Perl), a nervous, insecure young man who aims for the affection of Maggie, and Saunders’ daughter (Thandi Tolmay).
In a series of unfortunate and hilarious events, Tito is presumed dead on the night of his performance at Saunders’ venue, and with desperate persuasion, Saunders convinces his young protégé Max to pretend to be Tito and perform in his place. The only problem with this master plan: Tito isn’t really dead.
Amidst this story line, each scene is backed with witty hilarity between each member of the small cast. In fact, the writing of the play is jammed with so much quick wit that comedic lines often go unnoticed – or perhaps even unappreciated – by the audience.
Tito’s wife, Maria (Melissa Virgo), provides some of the most comical moments in the first act. However, like a perfect crescendo, the second act saves the best laughs for last. In a scene between the operatic seductress Diana (Teena Pugliese) and “the real” Tito, the audience enjoys nearly five straight minutes of hilarity thanks to the clever and coyly suggestive script.
From here forward, the second act collides each individual actor and their part in the play into a comedic climax that results in a predictable happy ending that unites the young lovers Max and Maggie. Despite the predictability of the story, the actors at the GCT successfully unravel each scene in such a way that the audience feels surprised at each turn of wacky events.
Michael Perl deserves special commendation because he masterfully portrays dual personas in much of the story. As both “the fake” Tito as well as Max, the actor takes on a poignant Italian accent as well as acts out the anxieties of a young man in love while also unsure of himself. Unfortunately, despite the background of the story revolving around an opera singer, I was left wanting more out of the brief singing duet between Max and Tito in the middle of act one.
Nonetheless, you cannot ask for much more when you go to the theater. Lend Me A Tenor will allow you to leave the theater feeling good, an excellent reprieve from some of the dreary stories in existence today. It is absolutely worth making a night out in Glendale!
*This play is directed by James Castle Stevens. It runs from Dec. 31-Feb. 7., Thursday-Saturday evenings at 8 P.M. with Saturday matinees at 3 P.M. An additional matinee will be presented on Sundays at 3 P.M. on January 18. Ticket prices are $28 for adults, $23 for seniors (62 or older), and $18 for children (16 or under).