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Repertory Theatre's 'Lend Me A Tenor' Takes Center Stage: Performance runs until Feb. 26 at the Edison Theatre

February 21, 2012

Chuck Scatolini (Tito Merelli) complains to Greg Young (Saunders) about his wife as Tim Casey (Max) listens to Juliana Olinka (Maria-Tito's wife) as she complains about her husband. Photo/Bluebird Imaging
Sometimes you just crave a little comedy. Yet when the local cinemas are only playing R-rated thrillers and Oscar-bait dramas—and every television show seems forensics-based—it’s nice to get out of the house and visit the Edison Theatre—a place where the seats are comfy and the sweet comedy of Lend Me A Tenor keeps the laughs going. 
 
Lend Me A Tenor, written by Ken Ludwig, was originally preformed on Broadway and produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Although it premiered in 1986, and more recently ran on Broadway in 2010, it achieves the feel of classic modern playwriting while adding its own contemporary twists.  
 
The comedy takes place 1934 in a hotel suite before the opening night of the opera “Otello.” Sounds like the classic “play within a play,” eh? Well … almost. 
 
The audience is spared from watching scenes from the opera (if that’s not your thing), but still gets to enjoy fancy opera costumes and crazy wigs. Along with sudden plot twists, mistaken identity, and risqué double-entendre. 
 
Tito Merelli, a world-famous tenor (the Pavarotti of Ludwig’s universe), is expected to perform at a gala fundraiser for the Cleveland Opera Company. 
 
However, like all great comedies, chaos begins when Merelli’s wife walks out on him after believing her husband to be cheating with a naive autograph-seeker, Maggie Saunders, who is found hidden in the bedroom closet.
 
“Il Stupendo,” the name Merelli’s fans know him by, is distraught and accidently served a double dose of tranquilizers, which leaves Mr. Saunders, the opera company’s general manager, with no choice but to make an insane plan work: Mr. Saunders disguises his assistant Max in Merelli’s Otello costume.
 
All this leads to an absurd degree of mistaken identities. 
 
If you’ve never seen a show produced by the Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre (MLRT), then this is a perfect introduction to the performing arts scene in town.  
 
However, there’s a good chance these tickets will go fast (judging by last Thursday, which marked the first sold-out opening night produced by the MLRT and Mammoth Lakes Foundation). The crew, along with an incredibly harmonious cast, creates the kind of theatre magic that drives patrons to become season pass-holders. 
 
Through the list of technical players is small, they are obviously professionals: The elegant two-room hotel suite set, simple lighting, excellent music and beautiful costumes, none out-shining the other. It’s incredible what Shira Dubrovner, artistic director of MLRT, along with less than two-dozen more, put together. Everyone involved must’ve put a lot of time and effort into making it look so easy.  
 
Lend Me A Tenor’s cast is comprised of a bold comedic ensemble. Tim Casey’s Max is fidgety and atwitter, winning the audience’s heart with conscientious gestures. Chuck Sctolini as Tito Merelli and Juliana Olinka as Maria Merelli both have fantastic comedic timing, and spoke in Italian accents without a stumble. 
 
The audience knew to prepare for a laugh when Alice Suszynski (playing Julia, a member of the board) entered the room. Dressed like Cinderella, but with even more sparkle (complete with tiara), Suszynski’s wide-eyed expressions and passive-aggressive flirtation techniques were spot on. 
 
Veteran of the MLRT stage Greg Young gives Harry Saunders a frustrated on-the-brink-of-explosion edge to his personality. It’s almost disappointing he doesn’t turn into a cartoon and start plotting against Bugs Bunny. Erica Sutch plays the young, romantically inclined Maggie Saunders with grace. 
 
Fueled with incredible energy, Jimmy Ogburn’s precocious Bellhop added comic relief by adding tension to the Saunders family’s nerves.  
 
Lynne Blanche, co-owner of Java Joint, makes her MLRT-debut as the seductive actress Diana, a modern-day Cleopatra, willing to use her physical “talents” to get to the top. 
 
Director Dubrovner has played the role as Artistic Director at MLRT for five years.  During that time, she has dedicated her time and energy to providing a venue for artistic expression in a community that tends to highlight other forms of bravery. 
 
Most recently, Dubrovner promoted a successful second annual Poetry Out Loud competition for local high school students, but Lend Me A Tenor could potentially be her biggest success in Mammoth Lakes to date. 
 
Lend Me A Tenor plays at the Edison Theatre, 100 College Parkway, Mammoth Lakes, until Feb. 26 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets cost $20 for general admission and $18 for seniors and students. Group rates and buy-outs are available. To RSVP, contact Shira Dubrovner at 760-934-6592 or email at shira@mammothlakesfoundation.org.

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