It's a plot as old as the theatre itself: a husband disguises himself as another man to try to woo his own wife and test her fidelity. It was already a little creaky when Hungarian dramatist Ferenc Molnar made it the basis of his 1910 farce The Guardsman. But it gets a fresh update, with lively songs and an irresistible backstage setting in Enter the Guardsman, the second offering in Jewel Theatre Company's 10th Anniversary season.
With a witty script by Scott Wentworth, the show features original songs from composer Craig Bohmler and lyricist Marion Adler. JTC fans will rejoice to hear that this is the same trio whose earlier collaboration, the terrific film noir musical, Gunmetal Blues, was a popular JTC production a couple of seasons back.
The source material isn't quite as dynamic for Enter the Guardsman, but director Art Manke's impressive staging, Kent Dorsey's wonderful set and lighting design, and a great cast make for an entertaining evening of theatre.
|Pizzo, Ledingham, and one grand illusion of a set!|
Set in the early Downton Abbey era just before the First World War, the story unfolds entirely backstage at a theatre where a popular actor and actress hold forth every night onstage. But after six months of marriage in real life, the Actor (David Ledingham) is beginning to wonder if his wife is growing bored with him. He worries that she's reached "the maximum length of her romantic attention span." Indeed, his wife and onstage partner, the Actress (Marcia Pizzo) fears that the routine of married life may be the death of romance.
Prowling about on the edge of the action is the Playwright, played to sly and silky perfection by David Arrow. He acts as both the narrator, drawing the audience into the tale, and instigator for the drama onstage. The accomplished cast manages to turn what is basically a story of insecurity, wanderlust, and mistrust into something light and breezy.
But the real star of the show is Dorsey's brilliant set, a plain brick wall behind the actors' dressing tables on which is projected the interior of a grand theatre—its audience facing us—to which the Actor and Actress play their parts in pantomime, beyond a scrim, whenever they go "onstage" to perform. It's a nifty extra layer of illusion in show that celebrates the place where acting, art, and fantasy collide. (Read more)