Born in Budapest, Hungry in 1878 Ferenc Molnar evolved into one of the most beloved playwrights of the twentieth century. One of Molnar’s plays, “Lilliom” was used as the basis of the Rodgers and Hammerstein mega hit musical “Carousel.” The film version of Molnar’s “The Swan” starred screen legend Grace Kelly right before she became Princess Grace of Monaco. And Arthur Miller adapted Molnar’s 1910 work “The Guardsman” into a radio play which eventually evolved into a major film. It is “The Guardsman” freely adapted by H. Patrikas Zakshevskis that currently graces the stage at the NoHo Arts Center.
The first thing to reach out from the stage and smack the audience with delight is the truly amazing set design for which massive kudos go to Joel Daavid. The venue is a fairly small 99 seat theatre. It is very well put together and comfortable. But somehow using his set designers magic Daavid very convincingly created on stage the interior of a very large mansion or possibly an extremely upscale apartment. Either way to make a fairly diminutive stage convincingly appear as something much larger is a clear sign of the amazing skills of Joel Daavid.
Then there are the Footman as portrayed by Josh Imlay and Chad Anthony Miller. Their performance begins as the house opens. Their primping and polishing help set the overall tone of the farcical comedy about to unfold. They have no “lines” but their presence is essential to the overall production.
Starring is Henry Olek as Max Shumann a rather neurotic slightly supercilious fading star. His insecurities are at the core of the play and their unveiling illuminates the audience with frequent and abundant waves of heartfelt laughter. Co-starring is the amazing Susan Priver as Elena Schumann an actress with a less than chaste past. Also co-starring is David Fruechting as Dr. Heinrich Kraus. Much of the hilarity comes from the performances of Kaitlin Huwe as the truly bizarre maid Berta and Bonnie Snyder as Mama.
Central to the story is the wildly over the top behavior of Max Schumann in his effort to test his wife’s loyalty and fidelity and her methods of dealing with her jealous husband. “The Guardsman” is a truly classic comedy filled with charm and wit. All elements come together to create a deeply memorable theatrical experience. It would be difficult to find a better way to spend an hour and a half and that you can do now through June 22, 2014 at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91601. Show times are 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays and 7 pm Sundays. General admission is $25 and reservations may be made by calling 323-960-4418 or online at: www.plays411.com/guardsman.
Copyright 2014 Ron Irwin