REVIEW: In “A Comedy of Tenors”, roll with the punchlines
It’s 1930-something in Paris and a grand opera concert is about to open– if only the stars will make it to curtain.
This is the basic premise of Kevin Ludwig’s “A Comedy of Tenors”, sequel to “Lend Me a Tenor”, though you won’t have a hard time following this production even if you’re not familiar with the first. It’s a screwball comedy, a farce, but Miguel Faustmann directs the material with a necessary precision that keeps the misunderstandings comedic, but never confusing.
Henry Saunders (Jeremy Domingo) needs three top tenors for his concert. One drops out, leaving him to look for a replacement. His star, Tito Merelli (Lorenz Martinez) and his wife Maria (Issa Litton) arrives in their suite, but Tito doesn’t come without problems. He’s a little threatened by a new emerging opera singer, Carlo (Arman Ferrer, presumably cast for his classical singing prowess) who is revealed to be his daughter (Mica Pineda)’s boyfriend.
Saunders gets Carlo to join the concert, but Tito mistakes him to be his lover’s wife and quits the show himself. With time running out, Saunders and his former assistant / current son-in-law, Max (Noel Rayos) scramble for a solution. Just their luck, a bellhop named Beppo with the voice of an angel presents himself, and looks identical to Tito. A sultry female singer, Racon (a stunning Shiela Valderrama-Martinez), who happens to be Tito’s ex, also enters the picture, paving the way for more misunderstandings and more hilarity.
The comedy comes from the chaos, but timing is of the essence. Faustmann’s direction reigns it in and the result is still broad comedy, but sensical. That is, as much sense as a farce could possess.
Suspension of disbelief is so crucial for this show, that one’s enjoyment hinges on it. Don’t think about how Tito and Beppo look identical down to their hairstyles, how not even Tito’s wife could tell the difference despite being close enough for a kiss. Don’t think about how his daughter didn’t even balk when his father (actually Beppo) copped a feel. If Racon unknowingly slept with the wrong man, and shrugged it off, so should you.
All the buffoonery may be a requirement of the genre, but this Repertory Philippines offering is still an entertaining show made so by Martinez and Litton’s performances as the eccentric Italian couple.
Martinez was able to differentiate his two roles by sheer acting alone (as the characters’ make-up and costumes did little to help), and even with the same Italian accent he was affecting for both characters. He plays Tito with a larger-than-life surety whereas his Beppo was vaguely endearing, if a wee bit dim. Litton was a scene-stealer as the frolicsome firecracker Maria, showing her ease at comedy without losing her eccentric, high society glamour.
It goes by almost too quickly, with a sentimental end that may be more affecting if you’re familiar with “Lend Me a Tenor”. Still, it’s a lively show from start to finish, sustaining a momentum that kept the audience entertained and alert all throughout. With “A Comedy of Tenors”, Repertory Philippines 2018 is off to a fairly strong start.