‘A Comedy of Tenors’ elevates slapstick to an art form

September 12, 2018

L. – R. Jenny Reber & Jacob Gerard Barnes. Courtesy of Ed Stewart. Used with permission.

If you like action-packed screwball comedy that is broad and physical, then you will be as highly entertained as I was when I saw Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “A Comedy of Tenors,” Saturday at the Studio Theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. Written by American playwright Ken Ludwig, the production runs through September 30.

I knew what I was getting into because I had previously seen several of Ludwig’s comedies, including “Lend Me a Tenor,” his first, which premiered on Broadway in 1989. “A Comedy of Tenors,” its sequel, includes several characters from that work, which the New York Times called “one of two great farces by a living writer.”

As can be expected with a farce, the entangled plot is replete with improbable situations, mistaken identities, slamming doors, romance and boisterous humor. Set in a Paris hotel in the 1930s, the rollicking tale involves four tenors, two wives, three girlfriends and a concert of the century taking place in a soccer stadium filled with frenzied fans. Standing in the way of the “concert of the century” actually occurring, however, is an egomaniac Italian superstar and his volatile wife who threaten the huge investment made by the concert’s short tempered- producer.

L- R Brynn Tyzska & Don Farrell – Courtesy of Ed Stewart. Used with permission.

Impressive, indeed, was Darrin Murrell’s tight direction. His carefully choreographed blocking was wondrous to behold, as were the comic actors with superb timing, who executed it to near-perfection. They included Mark Fishback as Saunders, Nic Eastlund as Max, Amy Bodnar as Maria, Don Farrell as Tito, Jenny Reber as Mimi, Jacob Barnes as Carlo and Brynn Tyszka as Racon.

Standing out was Barnes as guileless tenor Carlo Nucci, who dates Tito’s Merilli’s daughter Mimi. Possessing leading man good looks, Barnes showed dexterity as he executed some difficult yet hilarious pratfalls.

Showing a strong stage presence was Indy theatre newcomer Tyszka as Tatiana Racon, a fiery Russian opera singer. Looking glamorous in a sequined, floor-length black gown (designed by costumer Katie Cowan Sickmeier) and wearing white, opera-length gloves and a blonde finger-wave wig (designed by Andrew Elliot) Tyszka showed comic flair with her hilarious double takes and spot-on timing.

Highlights in the show included a performance by the characters played by Eastlund, Farrell and Barnes singing “Brindisi” (“The Drinking Song’) from “La Traviata,” during which they demonstrated more than passable operatic skills. Spoiler Alert! At the end of the show, the cast does a complete reprise of the entire show, except that it is done backwards and at break-neck speed, concluding an evening of pure delight and glorious escapism.

Tickets for “A Comedy of Tenors” can be purchased online at thecenterfortheperformingarts.org or by calling (317) 843-3800

photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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