Operatic Egos in a Sex Comedy at Hamptons Theatre Co.
The Hampton Theatre Company begins another fall season on a high note with “A Comedy of Tenors,” a hilarious romp about opera, sex, and marriage, not necessarily in that order. It runs through Sunday in Quogue and is a must-see for fans of farce and music alike.
Ken Ludwig’s 2015 play is set in a hotel in Paris, where Henry, a manager of opera singers, and his assistant, Max, are trying to organize a grand show of tenors in a soccer stadium. When one of the stars cancels his appearance at the last minute, Henry and Max scramble to find a replacement.
The only sure thing is that the “legendary” Tito Merelli will perform. Or will he? As Tito arrives at the hotel suite provided him by Max, he is a singer who is crippled by doubt. The new tenors are younger, he complains, better looking, more vital. Plus, Tito’s wife, Maria, is a sassy ball of fire who drives Tito crazy in the classic Italian way: They scream at each other one moment, make love the next, then threaten divorce minutes later — only to make up again by the end of the day.
Both Henry and Max spend a good deal of their time keeping the peace between the singer and his wife — if only to get Tito onstage for the evening’s performance.
Enter Carlo Nucci, a rising star among tenors who just happens to be in Paris and has agreed to fill in and sing with Tito. Tito, however, is wary — Carlo is just the kind of young singer that he finds threatening. Young, good looking, talented. Oh, and one other thing: The reason Carlo is in Paris is he is dating Tito’s daughter, Mimi, which Tito will soon discover.
Suffice it to say that the rest of “A Comedy of Tenors” is all classic sex comedy, complete with jealousy, infidelity, slammed doors, sexual innuendo, mistaken identity — and all of it carried off with expert pace and timing. The performances in this production are exceedingly good, even by the standards of this always-solid company.
Tito, of course, is the vital role, and Edward A. Brennan is up to the task, capturing both the tenor’s huge ego and his deep insecurity, with a bit of naughty boy thrown in for good measure. Later in the play he will also do well as Beppo, a childlike hotel porter with a golden voice. Catherine Maloney also stands out as the sassy, larger-than-life Maria, Tito’s emotionally extravagant wife, who also is an admirer of Carlo’s.
Like most good farce, pacing is essential, and this production gradually builds speed that culminates with the arrival of Racon, a Russian lover of Tito’s. (That everyone’s foreign accents are ridiculous only adds to the hilarity.) One can’t say too much about the direction of Diana Marbury, in which all the complicated blocking, exits and entrances, and physical slapstick is accomplished with expert composition and timing.
There is nary a misplaced line, or a joke that doesn’t succeed, and just when you think the production has hit its zenith, the actors Matthew Conlon, Connor Antico, and Edward Brennan break into full tenor mode, singing their way through some opera classics (and credibly, at least to my novice ear) to the show’s intermission.
Once again, the Hampton Theatre Company shows its sharp eye for comedy, and “A Comedy of Tenors” is a smashing way to begin a new season.