By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
INDIANAPOLIS — Mistaken identity, miscommunication, slap-stick and a touch of Abbot and Costello humor are filling the stage of the Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Performing the madcap farce, “Lend Me A Tenor,” a play which has won three Tony and two Drama Desk Awards, are favorite actors of the venue.
Set in a hotel suite in the 1930s, the play’s genius lies behind the six doors on stage. One leads to the kitchen, another to the hallway from the living room, another to the hallway from the bedroom, one to a walk-in closet, one to a bathroom and one that connects the living room to the bedroom. The fast-paced, high-energy theatrics are played out as actors come in and out (or hide behind) these doors.
Pay attention or you’re likely to forget who is behind which door.
The storyline itself is not particularly clever or funny — and is even a little disturbing. But it is only a framework on which to hang madcap antics, which are the heart of the play.
A world-famous tenor, Tito Morelli, is supposed to perform in Cleveland, but first misses rehearsal and then accidentally overdoses on prescription medication. Upon finding him with a pulse so weak that he is assumed dead, the general manager of the opera company insists it best to fool the audience with his assistant, Max, rather than face ruin. Dressing in the costume, make-up and giant wig of Otello, Max does, in fact, dupe even the other singers.
However, the real Morelli awakens, realizes he is late, dresses in his second costume and the stage is set for all manner of door-slamming, mistaken-identity hijinks.
Eddie Curry plays the loud, angry general manager perfectly. David Schmittou, his assistant, Max, slowly transforms from a nervous, timid underling to a bold man able to wield his leverage as an accomplice to the ruse. Craig W. Underwood, portraying Tito, is larger than life and fills the stage with Italian presence.
Jeff Stockberger, a Beef & Boards favorite, returns to the stage as the bellhop. This role allows him to unleash his goofy nature, which always leaves the audience in stitches.
Jill Kelly, who plays Max’s love interest, embodies the role of a silly, shallow woman perfectly. Very believable as a ditzy, star-struck girl, Kelly is beautiful and brings to mind characters from the silver screen of bygone days. Her role does cross over to the disturbing part of the storyline as she is intimate with Max while believing he is Tito. He does not correct the case of mistaken identity, but later she realizes the truth and quickly decides that it was all for the best. The show is not for children.
While there is little singing and no dancing in this production, the fast-paced movement and transfer of props is much like a dance. Impressive is the fact that none of the actors tripped over one another — except when they were supposed to.
Especially delightful is the highly-original curtain call, during which the cast reruns the entire show at super high speed. Since the audience is already amused with the pace of the show, the heightened speed is simply splendid.
“Lend Me A Tenor” is a great choice for those that love live theater and desire a light-hearted comedy.