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The Guardsman

a Romantic Comedy
CATEGORY :
by Ferenc Molnar

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 1197

SHOWING : February 09, 2005 - March 13, 2005

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Squabbling Actors put their marriage to the test with their off-stage role-playing and gamesmanship. This classic comedy is being directed by Hungarian Director Laszlo Marton.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Blander Than Life
by Dedalus
Friday, March 11, 2005
3.0
Alliance’s production of Ferenc Molnar’s creaky old Romance “The Guardsman” was alternately amusing, infuriating, hilarious, and, of all things, bland. It also had, at least to this theaterphile’s eyes, a major conceptual flaw.

First of all, let’s get the good stuff out of the way first. I loved the music-box set with its stylized proscenium and over-the-top vision of an acting couple’s dressing room. Yes folks, this is the fantasy, the sort of lush and plush digs we dream about when we fantasize about being not just actors, but STARS. You almost expect the Lunts or the Barrymores, or even Desiree Armfelt to come waltzing through the door. And the shift into the opera box 2nd “Act” was handled smoothly, quickly, and, amusingly, to the accompaniment of Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” (which, to my untrained ear, sounded slowed down, but never mind …).

I also very much enjoyed the performances of Ray Dooley and Hollis Resnik as the acting couple. To them, every thought was a crisis, every emotion an acting opportunity, and every piece of scenery snacks for munching. It was because of their third act shenanigans which left me with an overall “thumbs up” reaction to this production.

Now, for the bland, specifically Evan Thompson’s “phone it in” performance as Bela. This is the sort of character Noel Coward would later develop to the ultimate, the wry, urbane wit whose every utterance should be a bon mot and whose bemused outlook provides humorous counterpoint to the other characters. I say should be, because Mr. Thompson made the questionable choice to deliver every line in a dull monotone. Especially compared to the high-voltage energy coming from the stars, he came across as positively narcoleptic.

And this brings me to the conceptual flaw of the play. When Nandor disguises himself as the Guardsman, he suddenly becomes smaller (or perhaps I should say blander) than life. The Opera House scene, which I wanted to be an over-the-top compendium of romantic excess, became instead a dull, bland catalogue of Victorian clichés, delivered in such an earnest manner, I couldn’t help but wonder if these were the same personalities we visited backstage. To be blunt, the scene was deadly dull, a real snoozer.

I don’t know if this was a problem with the play or the direction or the acting. All I know is, theatrephile that I am, I always thought that role-playing should be Bigger Than Life. When the “real-life” characters are so much bigger than the roles they play, something is amiss.

In any case, once the romantic yawnfest is dropped, the play takes off, and I found myself giggling hysterically throughout the last scene.

So, I do recommend you see it this last weekend. Just bring your caffeine pills to get through Scene 2.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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