The Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue fulfills an important role — it provides high-quality community theater, mainly in the offseason for year-rounders, and it has a loyal following. Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors, the sequel to Ludwig’s smash 1989 hit Lend Me A Tenor, is just the kind of work that fits in with HTC’s choices; not exactly a deep cut, but not a famous and well-known work either. HTC tends to focus on the B sides, if you will, and with an able cast and crew, it rarely disappoints.
Lend Me A Tenor punned its title after what a scrounger might say, and A Comedy of Tenors, a nod to Shakespeare, features all the fast and furious action of its prequel, but with the addition, as in A Comedy of Errors, of a doppelganger and cases of mistaken identity.
First and foremost, you don’t need to know the first play to enjoy the second.
The setting is a fancy Parisian hotel in the 1930s, hours before an enormous concert is about to begin, featuring the renowned and arrogant tenor Tito Merelli, wonderfully portrayed here by Edward Brennan. The play also continues the story of the grouchy mayor-turned-impresario Henry Saunders (Terrence Fiore) and his long-suffering assistant turned tenor, and also now his son-in-law, Max (Matthew Conlon). Saunders’s daughter and Max’s wife, Maggie, is stateside, about to give birth, but the concert is a priority; even more so as Saunders and Max need to scramble to find a replacement when one of the three tenors who was going to perform bows out, and the new addition is Tito’s sworn enemy Carlo (who is also secretly dating Tito’s daughter, Mimi). Throw in Tito’s passionate, spirited wife, Maria (Catherine Maloney), and a bellhop with the voice of an angel (also portrayed by Brennan), and you have an inkling of the hijinks that follows.
When Tito quits in a fit of pique, thinking that it is his wife who is having an affair with Carlo, and Beppo the bellhop is tapped to perform, chaos naturally ensues, with Maria in a romantic mood, and Tito’s former lover, Racon, a spicy number played by Cesa Pledger, paying a visit as well.
If all of this sounds confusing, it isn’t. The plot twists are plentiful, the farce elaborate, but there is laughter at every turn, and the audience was in stitches for most of the evening.
As always, Diana Marbury directs with an able hand, and the sets, costumes, and lighting provided by Sean Marbury, Teresa LeBrun, and Sebastian Paczynski are consistently top quality. Seamus Naughton designed the sound.
Connor Antico as Carlo and Amanda Griemsmann as Mimi are a lovely ingenue couple, Conlon is always a pleasure to see on stage, Fiore, Maloney, and Pledger are all in fine form. But it’s Brennan’s show, as he races between the characters of Tito and Beppo. His high-energy performance deserves a special hand.
A Comedy of Tenors runs through November 11. Tickets are available at http://www.hamptontheatre.org.