1st Stage ParfumerieBy Rachael Murray • Dec 21st, 2011 • Category: Reviews
1st Stage, McLean, VA
Through January 8th
2:20 with one intermission
Reviewed December 18th, 2011
1st Stage’s production of Parfumerie, a Hungarian play by Miklos Laszlo, simultaneously radiates the bright colors of a romantic comedy and reveals the beauty of day-to-day life in a Budapest perfume shop. Parfumerie, a Hungarian play by Miklos Laszlo, was later adapted for stage and screen in multiple incarnations: The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime, She Loves Me, and You’ve Got Mail. If you have seen any of these, you are somewhat familiar with the basic story. The leading man and the leading lady correspond and fall in love. Later, they realize that they know each other, and in reality, they hate each other.
In 1st Stage’s production of Parfumerie, I got the feeling at times that I was attending a dress rehearsal. There are still a few kinks (difficulties with props or doors, line issues) to be worked out. That said, it was an enjoyable two hours and twenty minutes. While the cast is generally satisfactory (but not without a few pacing issues and occasional line flubs), the standout is Joshua Dick (Mr. George Horvath). Mr. Dick is an actor who understands comedy and smartly utilizes rhythm and timing in his scenes. A close second is Mario Baldessari, whose wise Mr. Sipos serves as an exaggeratedly funny mentor to George. Director Leslie A. Kobylinski creates beautiful scenes of silent transition in which the audience truly gets a visceral sense of the cyclical nature of life in the shop around the corner. These transitions take place in a silhouetted darkness. Unfortunately, the delays in spoken scenes and between entrances and exits detracted from these transitions.
Steven Royal’s sweeping, asymmetrical set design incorporates just the vibe you might expect in walking into a perfume and makeup shop. Upstage of the glass-windowed storefront is a wall covered in letters–what we might presume to be love letters. While this choice might be overstated, it does make for a striking impression. Costumes (Cheryl Patton Wu) are suitable and suggest the period. Lighting (Andrew Jorgensen) was mostly without flaw; however, better coordination with set and costumes could have avoided some shadows cast by arches and hats.
Time will best serve for this show to develop and work out the kinks. Those kinks aside, the play itself conjures a subconscious nostalgia for a more promising time. People cherished their jobs and professional relationships, even in the face of adversity. The concept of writing to and falling in love with a person without meeting is also poignant. In our world of eHarmony, Facebook, and Twitter, real-life interfacing can seem to some like a more dangerous affair. These two aspects give a meaningful edge to what might be played off as “just” a romantic comedy.
A Note From the Dramaturg
Budapest: cultured, fashionable, the “Paris of the East.” In the late 1930s it was a city on the precipice of war, yet filled with expectations of continued good fortune. It was a city home to a wealth of classes and religions. Here a farmer’s son from the countryside could move up in society with work and ambition. Or for those in chase of love, personal ads in newspapers opened wide the world of courtship and marriage. Classes mixed and shopped, sharing boulevards in a city brimming with tradition and culture.
Even on the brink of WWII Budapest held onto its unique identity as one of Europe’s crown metropolises. As rural Hungary fell into the hands of outside powers after the first World War, many people moved to Budapest for work and social mobility. Shops like Hammerschmidt’s were essential to this process and to Budapest’s society. It was independently owned shops that instructed residents in fashion and good taste. A successful clerk could turn shoppers into customers and usher them into the world of high society. The same society they too hoped to attain.
Aside from purchasing fine luxury goods, marriage was the quickest way to a bourgeoisie lifestyle in Budapest. The personal ad, around since the birth of the newspaper over 300 years ago, was often the chosen method. Young and old alike relied on personal ads in friendship, courtship and marriage.
For some, such as older gentlemen, a personal ad was a sure means of finding a spouse when traditional methods had failed or desperation had taken hold. Parents in Eastern Europe’s Jewish communities often used personal ads sprang up in the 1900s to accommodate the high demand for marriage. Individual also posted personal ads. This type of ad typically included a telephone number or postal box number to receive interested parties. Both men and women posted personal ads as it was not uncommon or frowned upon. These ads allowed young people to correspond with one another before committing to courtship, marriage and for the lucky, love.
–Rebekah Nettekoven Tello, dramaturg
Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, adapted by E. P. Dowdall, from the English translation by Florence Laszlo of the Hungarian play, Illatszertar. Directed by Leslie A. Kobylinski
Photos provided by 1st Stage
- Mr. Miklos Hammerschmidt: Manolo Santalla
- Mr. George Horvath: Joshua Dick
- Mr. Sipos: Mario Baldessari
- Mr. Steven Kadar: Matt Boliek
- Miss Amalia Balash: Amal Saade
- Miss Ilona Ritter: Leigh Taylor Patton
- Miss Elizabeth Molnar: Raven Bonniwell
- Arpad Novack: Ben Lurye
- Fritz, Young Woman, Various Customers: Genevieve James
- A Policeman, Various Customers: Chris Stinson
- A Detective, Old Gentleman: Dane C. Petersen
- Various Customers: Malaika Murphy-Sierra
- Various Customers: Julia D’Ambrosi
- Director: Leslie A. Kobylinski
- Set Design: Steven Royal
- Costume Design: Cheryl Patton Wu
- Lighting Design: Andrew Jorgensen
- Fight Choreography: Paul Gallagher
- Program: Marty McGrane, Lynne Silverstein
- Dramaturg: Bekah Nettekoven Tello
- Stage Manager: Rose M. Kobylinski
Disclaimer: 1st Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7468.
Rachael Murray is an actor, director, and teaching artist. She is a Virginia Tech alumnus with a Bachelor's of Arts in English and Theatre Arts. A relative newcomer to the DC Metro area, Rachael has participated as both an actor and director in a variety of projects at Virginia Tech and has worked as a teaching artist with Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, New York.