‘Lend Me A Tenor’ delivers big laughs

By Steven Adamo

Quick dialogue mixed with chaotic scenes make ELAC’s Theater Arts department’s rendition of Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor” hilarious and enjoyable.

The play takes place entirely within a two-room hotel suite in 1930’s Cleveland. Designed by ELAC Theater Arts staff Tesshi Nakagawa, with the assistance of Mio Okada and Katherine Cordero, the set was beautifully crafted and sprinkled with decorations reflective of the time.

Garrett Witzl plays Max, an assistant to Henry Saunders (played by Jacob Cohen), the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company.

Later in the evening, an Italian opera tenor named Tito Merelli is expected to perform the lead in Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Otello.’ As the dress rehearsal approaches, however, Merelli is nowhere to be found.

Cohen draws immediate laughs from the crowd with his commanding voice and did an outstanding job at conveying the nervousness over the missing star to Saunders’ sold-out play.

Maggie, played by Samantha Megan Atilano, is the daughter of Henry Saunders and Max’s occasional girlfriend. Max is visibly jealous as Maggie affectionately recalls the time when she met Tito Merelli. As the show nears and Tito is still a no-show, Max believes that Maggie would accept his marriage proposal if he performed the lead role in Tito’s place.

That option is met with laughter from Saunders, who rapidly lists all the reasons why that would be a terrible idea. Cohen’s performance quickly drifts from calm to enraged, which was enjoyable to watch.

rest in peace— Actor Garrett Witzl as “Max,” left, tucks Christopher Barajas as “Tito Merelli” into bed to rest before Tito’s show.

The play is elevated to another level as Tito Merelli (played by Christopher Barajas) enters the stage with his wife Maria (played by McCall Cadenas). Both actors command immediate attention as they barge into the hotel room while arguing passionately with each other.

The scenes between Witzl and Barajas are endearing and the physical comedy between both actors is a particular crowd-pleaser.

The play skillfully turns chaotic as Maria demands Tito take his medication for an upset stomach, while Saunders tries to convince Tito to go to the dress rehearsal. The scene quickly gets even more chaotic as the bellhop, played by Arthur Armenta, pops into the room in order to meet Tito.

Armenta’s performance as the bellhop was a crowd favorite, frequently receiving loud bursts of laughter from the audience with his physical comedy and erratic mannerisms.

The chaos intensifies as actresses Diana (played by Gabriela Maldonado) and Julia (played by Zadie Cannon) also do their best to meet Tito. The best moments of the play are when all eight actors interact with each other simultaneously. The cast does a great job at conveying that chaos without getting too out-of-hand.

The rest of the play is filled with one hilarious misunderstanding after another. It is a joy to see all these interactions carefully choreographed within these two rooms.

Some of the scenes transition beautifully using lighting and sound. In a scene that featured Tito sleeping, the lights on the stage slowly dimmed to darkness with the only visible light coming from the window of the hotel.

The attention to detail is specifically noticeable with the sound, the best example being the sound of a person’s voice emitting from the telephone during conversations.

Overall, ELAC’s Theater Arts department did a wonderful job with their adaptation of Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor.”

Directed by Vanessa Mizzone Pellegrini, “Lend Me a Tenor” will be showing at the P2 Proscenium Theatre December 7, 8, and 9 at 8:00 p.m. and two matinée shows December 8 and 10 at 2:00 p.m.

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