While Hurricane Irene and the end of summer combined to knock me off my regular blog posting rhythm, the Barksdale Buzz has been picking up the slack with Mr. Miller posting a number of entries coinciding with the beginning of the new theater season. And then yesterday Barksdale guest blogger Annie Hulcher debuted to much appreciation and anticipation (at least by me). Ms. Hulcher is one member of a delightful coterie of teen theater stars in Richmond, many of who lit up the stage in SPARC’s “Ragtime” this past summer. Beyond her significant talents, she has always impressed me with her quick wit and obvious intelligence (you don’t get into Maggie Walker Governor’s School on good looks alone…) I’m very much looking forward to her fresh and insightful view of the goings-on over at Barksdale / Theatre IV.
Ms. Haubenstock’s review of “Lend Me a Tenor” came out today and she mentions an opening night prop malfunction involving a wine bottle. I make reference to the same incident in the review I filed this weekend that should hit newsstands next week. For those who weren’t there, we are referring to a scene involving opera star Tito Morelli (played by Joe Pabst) trying to open a bottle of wine with the help of Max (Nick Ciavarella). On opening night, Joe and Nick were having trouble getting the cork out of the bottle and, after some effort, ended up stripping it so the cork simply wouldn’t come out at all. At which point, a vaguely confused audience realized without a doubt that the mishap was not scripted.
This set off a mini-maelstrom of improvisation by Mssrs. Pabst and Ciavarella, trying in vain to work around the situation, Nick at one point rushing into the kitchen and offering coffee instead. The ultimate solution involved the actors using the corkscrew as a bludgeon, boring through the cork enough so a piddling stream of wine could finally be shaken out of the pesky bottle.
It was the kind of scene that proves the endless appeal of live theater where you truly don’t know what’s going to happen from one performance to the next. The audience ate it up, hooting and guffawing appreciatively at every effort the actors made to rectify their predicament. It was also one of the supreme tests for a professional actor and both Mr. Pabst and Mr. Ciavarella showed his meddle under pressure. While it was impossible not to concede in their reactions that this was not supposed to be happening, neither one dropped character and their actions were completely consistent with the trajectory of the story. Perhaps my favorite part was when the wine finally started to pour and Pabst said (and I’m paraphrasing as I was laughing too hard to catch it exactly), “That’s a some glass of wine!” which effectively brought the house down.
There are many reasons to recommend “Lend Me a Tenor” – it’s a rollicking farce with a winning cast expertly led through their paces by Scott Wichmann. But opening night provided an extra incentive to see it: in the midst of the madness, you never know what’s going to go awry, and you are certain to be delighted at how the talented professionals on stage will use such moments to generate even more laughs than were originally designed.