Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule


John Treacy Egan and Emily Townley
Photo Courtesy of Olney Theatre Center
The farce now at Olney Theatre Center, in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, has the self-aware title Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors. The play, a sequel to Ludwig's breakthrough hit Lend Me a Tenor, is entertaining enough but may seem a bit unfocused to those familiar with the original play. (Olney presented it in 1993 and 2005.)

Director Jason King Jones acts efficiently as a traffic cop, keeping the actors from tripping over each other as they play every moment to the rafters. Charlie Calvert's scenic design is serviceable and well-appointed, while Seth M. Gilbert's costumes glitter with excess—specifically a dress trimmed in gold beading, a blouse with enormous sleeves, and a white fur cape.

A Comedy of Tenors is set in Paris in 1936, two years after the events of Lend Me a Tenor. Henry Saunders (Alan Wade), once the general manager of an opera company in Cleveland, is now promoting a gala "Concert of the Century" with three tenors including Tito Merelli (John Treacy Egan, who takes up the space in any room where he is), whose misadventures in Cleveland formed the core of the earlier play, and Max (likable Matthew Schleigh), Saunders' son-in-law and former assistant, who has begun an opera career of his own. Wade is trying hard, but he's struggling against a characterization based on an "ugly American" discovering how his prominence in Cleveland means little among "foreigners" who don't speak English.

Tito and his wife Maria (Emily Townley, delightfully outrageous) are a mutually devoted if volatile couple, but they disagree about the romantic life of their daughter Mimi (Allyson Boate), an aspiring actress. Mimi has found a wonderful man who adores her (Alan Naylor), but the always impulsive Tito has his doubts. He also has a way of jumping to conclusions and quoting arias when commenting on his life. (A sight gag involving a scarf is a reference to the lost handkerchief in Otello, the role Tito was hired to perform in the earlier play.)

Of course, the complications pile up. Tito despises a younger tenor who, he fears, is stealing his audience. A tempestuous Russian soprano from Tito's past (Patricia Hurley, a long way from her performance as Mary Poppins at Olney) coincidentally is also performing in Paris. And when things get difficult, a music-loving bellman at the hotel (Egan again, wide-eyed and in love with opera) just happens to be a perfect double for Tito.

Olney Theatre Center
Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors
April 10th - May 12th, 2019
By Ken Ludwig
Saunders: Alan Wade
Max: Matthew Schleigh
Tito/Beppo: John Treacy Egan
Maria: Emily Townley
Mimi: Allyson Boate
Carlo: Alan Naylor
Racón: Patricia Hurley
Directed by Jason King Jones
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org


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