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TheatreWorks’ newest farce to begin tonight
TheatreWorks will present “Lend Me A Tenor” beginning tonight at the Black Box Theatre uptown. Above, the Bellhop (top left, played by David Bishop) and Saunders (right, played by Max Hall) react to Maria (right front, played by Lanetta Byrd) as she makes accusations about Julia (Betty Joe Turner, lying down). The production will run through Sunday and again next weekend. (Contributed photos)
You don’t have to get all the double entendres to get a laugh out of “Lend Me A Tenor” — but they certainly add flavor to the show.
The TheatreWorks Community Players’ comedy opens tonight at the Black Box Theatre, 44 Franklin St. in uptown Martinsville. Tonight’s show is sold out, but tickets remain available for other evenings. That includes a new Sunday night performance this weekend.
“It’s fun, hilarious and exhausting” to put on the show, said Lanetta Byrd, who plays the fiery Maria, wife of the visiting opera star in the production.
Max Hall plays Saunders, the nervous, excitable and demanding opera company manager. “If you’ve seen ‘Noises Off,’” an earlier TheatreWorks production, this show “is very similar,” Hall said. “The whole play is built around misconceptions, misunderstandings and double entendres.”
Byrd said putting on a show is absorbing. “You get kind of wrapped up in it. It takes a while to come back down to a normal level” of energy, she added.
Both said the show gets funnier at every rehearsal, and they expect the trend to continue through the performances. That’s because “everybody comes up with new ideas,” and the actors play off each other more and more, said Byrd.
Because it evolves, “you will not see the same show twice,” Hall said.
In the production, Saunders is overanxious and hyperactive as he worries whether the visiting Italian opera star Tito will perform his role. Saunders’ dreamy daughter, Maggie (Sarah Wardle), is bored with her predictable relationship with Max (Clif Jones) and is wishing for some excitement. She fawns over Tito, energetically played by Jamie Donovant.
Tito’s wife, the hot-blooded Maria, is continually jealous over his attentions — real and imagined — toward other women.
When an overdose of medication puts Tito out, Saunders and Max assume he died. The mild and unassuming Max is put in Tito’s place to do the performance. Putting on the costume of Otello and being mistaken for the star turns the meek and unassuming Max into an uninhibited, adventurous Lothario.
Wanda Wingfield plays the sultry community theater diva Diana who aspires to make the big time and hopes Tito will bring her there. Betty Joe Turner is Julia, the gracefully commandeering chairman of the opera league, and David Bishop is The Bellhop, who wants to be part of the action.
The crew commended TheatreWorks Artistic Director Corbin Campbell. “He has great vision for what a show should be. You can start with something and it’ll be fine, but he’ll bring more out of you,” Byrd said.
The cast is mostly the same group who put on last year’s heavy “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Going from serious drama to farce gave a new dynamic to the combination of personalities, the actors said.
“‘Streetcar’ was a classic piece of American theater,” Campbell said. “This is comedy and farce. (Everyone is) laughing on stage and certainly backstage. All of those wonderful bits of comedy not in ‘Streetcar’ allowed them to express new sides of their personality.”
TheatreWorks will present “Lend Me A Tenor” at 7 p.m. tonight through Sunday and again Thursday, Sept. 12, through Saturday, Sept. 14. Tickets cost $12. They can be purchased online at www.twcp.net or at Piedmont Arts.
Special note to Friday’s audience: A run and street dance will be held in the same area as the Black Box at the same time. Arrive early to look for parking, which will be available at the farmers market lot and the lot in front of the post office.