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Monday, July 13, 2015

Review: ‘The Guardsman’ at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey superior theatre

STNJ_Guardsman_4741

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is presenting a world premiere adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s The Guardsman. This hilarious adaptation of this classic is the first English translation of The Guardsman from the original unabridged Hungarian. Molnár’s great grandson Gábor Lukin, who attended the  opening night performance on Saturday, translated the play for STNJ's Artistic Director Bonne J. Monte who then adapted it for the stage and has directed this superior production.

STNJ_Guardsman_4444 On the surface the play is a very funny tale of marriage infidelity, however it has a provocative, thought-provoking core.  The plot centers on a husband and wife, both stars of the Budapest theatre who have been married for only six months, unfortunately it is the normal length of past love affairs of the wife, Helene, The Actress (Victoria Mack). Fully aware of this The Actor (Jon Barker) fears she may have grown tired of not only marriage but also him! To test the situation, he decides to use his acting skills to assume the disguise of a noble guardsman in an attempt to seduce his wife, thus proving her unfaithfulness. However, here is his dilemma....what if she refuses his advances?....is it because of her love solely for him, or is it because she recognized him!  Can doubt ever be removed? (photo above: Jon Barker & Victoria Mack)

Evidently, Molnar suffered from the same malady....he reportedly was inspired to write The Guardsman in 1910 by his own adulterous relationship with Hungary’s premiere actress of the day and his concern for his own wife's faithfulness (or lack there of!). Its immediate success led to The Guardsman making its Broadway debut in 1924. Seven years later, a film adaptation premiered to much success, starring the reigning theater couple of the time, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

STNJ_Guardsman_4330 The superb cast is led by Jon Barker as the somewhat buffoonish husband, and Victoria Mack perfect as the wife who may or may not be aware that the overly amorous mustachioed guardsman is her husband in disguise (photo right). The fine supporting actors are; Brent Harris as The Critic (photo below right), Wendy Barrie-Wilson as Mama, Saluda Camp as the maid Bette, Sheffield Chastain as The Debt Collector, and Noreen Farley as the discreet Opera usherette.

STNJ_Guardsman_8045 This production of The Guardsman can best be described as sumptuous...with all the major league elements we have come to expect from Ms. Monte and company: superior cast, gorgeous costumes, highly effective lighting, and spectacular sets. Ms. Monte's creative team includes: Brittany Vasta scenic designer, Paul H. Canada costume designer, Steven Rosen lighting designer, and Kathy Snyder production stage manager.


Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   June 11, 2015

Performances began Wednesday, July 8th and continue through Sunday, July 26th at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Individual tickets and subscriptions can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or by visiting ShakespeareNJ.org. 

Top photo: Jon Baker, Victoria Mack and Sheffield Chastain (Photo © Jerry Dalia

4th photo: Victoria Mack and Brent Harris (Photo © Avery Brunkus)

All other photos by © Jerry Dalia, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

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