Here are five reasons to see Wright State’s season opener, featuring an entirely masked cast due to health and safety protocols.
1. Guaranteed laughs from start to finish
Hailed by critics as “the most inventive, original farce in a long time” and “a furiously paced comedy with more than a touch of the Marx brothers,” “Lend Me a Tenor” remains one of the most popular American farces of the last 35 years. “We want to welcome our audiences back with an evening of pure silliness,” said Deer, in a release. “For me, it’s a chance to revisit one of my favorite plays and to teach students how this kind of comedy works – and they are very quick studies. This promises to be one of the most delightful shows we’ve ever done. I know our audiences will leave the theatre exhausted from laughing.”
2. The charming return of a talented duo
One month before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered Wright State’s 2019-2020 season, Aidan Lord and Cole Frasher respectively portrayed elderly Morten Kiil and sophisticated newspaper publisher Aslaksen in the outstanding “An Enemy of the People,” one of the best shows in the university’s history. They winningly return in charming portrayals requiring the utmost in physicality, stamina, timing, nuance and vocal credibility. The tall, agile Lord, effortlessly tumbling across a sofa at one point, fills Max with a geeky, fidgety awkwardness which endearingly dissipates in Act 2 as his self-esteem rises with continual post-“Pagliacci” adulation. As the dashing yet dumbfounded Tito, Frasher, impressively handling the brunt of a deep slumber late in Act 1, is an absolute hoot as Tito attempts to make sense of the chaotic confusion surrounding him. Frasher, speaking in a slow Italian cadence, is particularly wonderful in a hilarious exchange opposite sexy soprano Diana (Emily Eliasen, a gifted seductress even in the smallest details such as gliding her fingertips on the back of a sofa).
3. An exasperating boss and his kooky cohorts
Jacob Jones, previously seen at Wright State in “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Mother Courage and Her Children,” is an excellently authoritative jerk as the easily annoyed, demanding and overbearing Saunders. In addition to fine comedic rapport with Lord, Jones is effectively supported by Camille Carmichael as Saunders’ daughter and Max’s girlfriend Maggie, warmly cheerful Tommy Cole as an opera-adoring Bellhop and Sam Evans as regal opera devotee Julia.
4. An unforgettable Italian wife
Donya Rahimi delivers a breakthrough performance as Maria, Tito’s fiery, hot-tempered wife fed up with him romanticizing other women. Maria doesn’t have much stage time (she leaves Tito early in Act 1 and returns late in Act 2), but Rahimi’s domineering presence (claws out!) and superb accent (kudos to dialect coach extraordinaire Deborah Thomas) heightens her unforgettable portrayal.
5. A comical curtain call
In the final moments, the cast quickly recreates the entire show in a wordless, zany, fast-paced sequence that will send you out of the Festival Playhouse with a huge smile. Welcome back to the joy of live theater.
HOW TO GO
What: “Lend Me a Tenor”
Where: Festival Playhouse of the Creative Arts Center at Wright State University, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Dayton
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: 937-775-2500 or www.wright.edu/tdmp
FYI: Audiences are required to wear masks and observe university health regulations.