photo: Joan Marcus
Ken Ludwig's screwball farce, in which a milquetoast has to pass for a world-famous opera star, may take too long to get going to be counted as a truly top-drawer example of the genre, but its opportunites for physical comedy make it a stitch anyhow. I doubt it could be shown off to more hilarious, fast-paced advantage than in the current Broadway revival, which packs in more laughs than minutes. Under Stanley Tucci's direction just about everyone in the cast, from Justin Bartha (as the milquetoast) to Anthony LaPaglia (as the opera star) to Jan Maxwell (as the opera star's wife), plays with the zest of a seasoned farceur. Actors can easily push this kind of slamming doors comedy too hard - aggressive mugging is an occupational hazard of the genre - but the exaggeration here isn't out of scale with the stakes the material demands. Perhaps the finest example of this is Tony Shalhoub's central performance as the Opera company's increasingly unhinged executive director: he could bellow his way through the character and score himself easy laughs, but instead he simmers just below the boiling point. The play is ultimately funnier for it. Special hats-off to the curtain call, a zany fast forward through the whole play in 3 minutes.