The Guardsman by Ferenc Molnàr, translated by Frank Marcus
Scenic designer Tom Buderwitz’s letter perfect set for The Guardsman foreshadows the fun to come currently in rep at A Noise Within. Presenting their third season at the new ANW theater, Artistic Producing Team Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott continue the schedule with their ‘classics’ presentations to the enjoyment of, at least, the matinee audience I watched the show with.
Michael Michetti’s direction is not particularly inspired, but the cast is having quite a good time beginning with wonderful Wendy Worthington’s (The Mother) entrance through subtle histrionics that abound in witty dialogue and enjoyed by all concerned. The play is all about the trials and mixed up tribulations of The Actor (Freddy Douglas) and The Actress (spot on Elyse Mirto) as a plot is hatched by the former to test the loyalty of the latter. Let the games begin.
Why The Critic (ANW perennial Robertson Dean), who has his 1920s postures down pat, is hanging out with the couple is not exactly clear. As an interlocutor and friend to both of our main characters, he certainly helps to move the plot along. Ah! The Theatre! The Actor will pretend to go off to play in the hinterlands, when, if fact, he shall return as The Guardsman (he’s already prepped The Actress with flowers he’s sent as the soldier) to see if her love may be swayed away from their marriage.
The clever ploy The Actor has devised to test his new bride’s loyalty, announcing that The Actress will never recognize him in his shiny military drag seems silly to The Critic, however, without the ridiculous plot, the play would simply not be happening. Buderwitz’s set morphs from the couple’s tony digs to The Opera (a box, actually, where Worthington is the only somewhat attentive audience member, while a dicey tryst evolves in the elegant sitting room adjacent to the box. The Guardsman: The Actor with wig, mustache, shiny helmet and uniform, appears and The Actress coyly responds. Is she wooed? Or, is she also acting? (For a minute here I could hear Jon Lovitz as The Master Thespian gesturing and saying the word! ACTING!) It’s great fun. Douglas’s pseudo Hungarian (I think) accent is difficult to cipher out, (I understood that he may have had some health issues affecting his voice) but the audience loved it.
Segue to Act III as the opera box quickly reverts (kudos to uncredited costumed stage hands) back to the couple’s home and the dance of whom played who and whom knew what and when, if ever… waltzes on. A clever transformation for The Actor to become again, The Guardsman is hilarious and worth the wait! We may never know if the plan worked out just right, but all’s well as the scene reverts, ala La Ronde, to right back where we started from.
Pretty Sasha Pasternak as Maid, Todd Andrew Ball as A Creditor season the show just right. Judy Durning’s Usherette missed a couple of moments for subtle humor, but that may be on Michetti.
Gary D. Lennon’s costumes are perfect to the times. Complete with baby grand, Buderwitz’s set is a perfect compliment to the wonderfulness of the production.
All in all The Guardsman works just fine and is what ANW is dedicated to, bringing little known classic theatre to Pasadena. Rumor has it, however that moving toward living playwrights may be in the wings, which would be, to me, a welcome change. Actually creating classic theatre may also be an idea as this dedicated company settles into its new home.
Home in Pasadena, Home where the grass is greener…
The Guardsman by Ferenc Molnàr
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91107
Plays in repertory through November 30, 2013
Tickets and Information
626 356 3100 ex 1