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A CurtainUp Review The Guardsman

by Joan Eshkenazi

As pleasant as a Viennese pastry served in an old fashioned konditerei, Ference Molnar's The Guardsman is presented to us in its Art Deco crust, powdered with caramelized strands of Chopin and Puccini. A delectable tart of a famous Viennese actress paired with a fruit filled strudel of an actor husband, aided by petits five winsome puffs, create an evening of tasty delights. The recipe is tried and true - a beautiful, but restless, full flavored wife; a suspicious, jealous and ripened (but not yet decayed) husband; a spicy Mama; an unusually wholesome Critic; a tangy Creditor; a delicate Liesl (the maid) and a dash of Usher.

This fin-de-siecle comedy with its repartee and character in disguise to test a woman's loyalty, probes the everlasting questions of love, marriage and fidelity. Somewhat reminiscent of Cosi Fan Tutte the Actor, effectively played by Tom Bloom, disguises himself as a Guardsman to test his wife's faithfulness. Joanne Camp, excellent as the Actress, keeps us guessing as to whether or not she is on to her husband's ruse. After being married for an interminable six months, the actress does not doubt her love for her actor husband but no longer feels that she is "in" love with him. Her husband-turned Russian Guardsman -turned back to husband-turned to Russian Guardsman -husband, (follow me?), finally concedes, "Whatever lies a woman tells - that is the truth!"

The two leads are admirably supported by Ruby Holbrook as Mama, Petra Wright as Liesl, Helmar Augustus Cooper as the Critic, Dane Knell as the Creditor and Anna Minot as the Usher. The pleasant art nouveau set with its sinuous curves and peach and silver hues, was designed by Robert Joel Schwartz. Murell Horton is responsible for those luscious gowns so delightfully filled out (or squeezed into) by Ms Camp.

Ferenc Molnar wrote Liliom, the play that developed into Carousel. George Bernard Shaw was one of his competitors. However, with Shaw one has to concentrate on the highly intellectual preachings of immorality and human shortcomings. Molnar, instead, delivers a simply understood play based upon passion and human foibles. Molnar, after all , was a product of sensuous Budaspest; Shaw , a product of the Irish steeped in social consciousness.

The director. Russell Treyz, successfully brings us into the Vienna of 1911. The conversations, the living room, the anteroom of the box at the opera set-- all are kept in the turn of century mode. Only infrequently do we feel that the Critic will depart to the coffeehouse for his bagel rather than for his sacher torte.

The show, like all Pearl Theatre productions has a limited run, in this case until April 26th. To keep up with the doings of this "home for the Classics" check their web site at: THE PEARL THEATRE COMPANY

©Copyright 1997, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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