Photo courtesy of Bob Abelman

Tito strangles Carlo, who he believes is having an affair with his wife in CPH’s production of “A Comedy of Tenors.”

 

October 6, 2015

CPH ‘Comedy of Tenors’ sings tedious tune

By Ian McBride
Contributor

Like a puppy playing fetch, “Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors” at the Cleveland Play House will initially endear itself with cute antics and amusing tricks before wearing itself out by repeating the same thing over and over again.

It’s Paris in 1936 and the opera concert of the century is about to take place. Producer Saunders (Ron Orbach) has brought together Tito (Bradley Dean), an aging but world-renowned vocalist; Max (Rob McClure), his former assistant but an accomplished singer; and Carlo (Bobby Conte Thornton), an up-and-coming star, to perform.

Trouble is, the possessive Tito believes his wife (Antionette LaVecchia) is having an affair with Carlo, when it is his overprotected daughter Mimi (Kristen Martin) who is in a secret relationship with the newcomer.

This is simply the first in a series of escalating misunderstandings, inexplicable mistaken identities and ridiculous situations that has everyone in this farcical sequel to Ludwig’s 1986 Tony Award-winning “Lend Me a Tenor” repeatedly coming and going.

Designed with pure slapstick in mind, each character acts as an exaggerated caricature. As a result, believability takes a backseat to hijinks in this play. Having a few characters built solely for comic relief is understandable and appreciated. Saunders, for example, is a large man in a perpetual state of ear-steaming emotional eruption. Orbach plays him like the cartoon character he is, which works just fine.

But every character comes from the same two-dimensional mold and their predictable reactions to the silly situations they are placed in keep the story from moving forward, and the audience from really caring about them.

This improves in the second act, but it is too little too late.

Fortunately, the Tony Award-winning CPH is staging this show, with the superb Stephen Wadsworth as director and a cast filled with veteran actors. The incredible set designed by Charlie Corcoran – an authentic looking five-star hotel room – also serves to cover up the holes in the script.

The stage dressings provide ample doors for slamming, sufficient room for hiding, and something gorgeous to look at when the action inevitably grows tedious — which it does all too quickly.
“A Comedy of Tenors” played in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square from Sept. 5 to Oct. 3.

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