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Lend Me a Tenor! Fast-Paced, Farcical Fun

Observer Scene | Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saint Mary’s College’s Moreau Center for the Arts will host a production of “Lend Me a Tenor!” this weekend in the O’Laughlin Auditorium. Katie Sullivan, an associate professor of theatre at Saint Mary’s and director of “Lend Me a Tenor!” had the chance to speak to the Observer via e-mail about the production.

Scene: Can you describe the play and a brief history?

Sullivan: This play is a rollicking comedy by Ken Ludwig and is based on the wonderful old French bedroom farces, in which characters are confronted with impossibly difficult situations, mistaken identities, romantic escapades, people kissing the wrong people, people hiding from each other, doors slamming right and left, as people come and go in a world which has become increasingly hard to tell up from down. The play was written twenty years ago, though, and ran on Broadway for 476 consecutive performances, earning three Tony Awards in 1989 including Best Play.

Ludwig has set the play in Cleveland in 1934, in a grand hotel suite. The Cleveland Opera Company has managed to snag the world famous tenor, Tito Morelli, to come perform Othello with them. It is opening night, the tenor is late but finally arrives in the middle of a big fight with his wife, who is tired of his womanizing ways. She mistakes a female fan hiding in his bedroom closet for another lover and leaves him with a “Dear John” note which sends him spiraling down into despair. It looks like the show won’t go on…until the manager of the company persuades his assistant, Max, to put on the Othello costume and try to save the day. Soon enough, that action leads to more mayhem and hilarity as the plot thickens and the web tightens.

Scene: How are the actors doing in their individual performances?

Sullivan: Students cast in the play include SMC students Kristina Marinelli, Elizabeth Carian, Darcy O’Neill and Anne Yurek. Holy Cross College Marlon Burnley is also in the show, along with SMC History Professor Bill Svelmoe, and local actors Steve Cole and Will Heckaman. SMC student Annaliese Furman is serving as the Lighting Designer, a job normally taken be a faculty member, but Annaliese is especially interested in lighting.

Scene: Is it difficult to translate a professional show to a college setting?

Sullivan: The play has been fun to work on since it is so funny, but it has been challenging as well because it is very fast-paced and all the actors must keep in mind what secrets their characters know, or doesn’t know, what secrets they are determined to find out, where they are operating under mistaken assumptions, etc. A particular treat which takes the madcap action to new heights of silliness and dizzying speed occurs at the end of the play in the first of two curtain calls.

I have also enjoyed working with elegant 1930s period, in both room decor and costumes. There is something extra funny to me of seeing all these far-fetched shenanigans and physical humor undertaken in tuxedo tails and sparkling gowns!

The play opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. Other performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday afternoon, at 2:30.

Contact Analise Lipari at alipari@nd.edu.