Nov 20, 2008

Soulpepper Loves The Magyars

Miklos Laszlo, Ferenc Molnar, Laszlo Marton. What’s up with Soulpepper and the Hungarians? Is it the drama? The comedy? Perhaps the strange sense of isolation some (me) argue the country has from its European brethen?

Whatever the case, Albert Schultz & Co. seem quite enamoured with my kinsman’s theatre artists. Marton, a Soulpepper favourite, will be returning to Toronto to direct Molnar’s The Guardsmen, a play about deception, fidelity and the sometimes-complicated world of male-female relationships. It runs late August through the fall.

Parfumerie
, by Miklos Laszlo, was used as the basis for both the musical She Loves Me and the film You've Got Mail. It will be performed November through late December, providing a fascinating contrast to much of the city's annual December fare.

I don’t have a lineage of theatre artists I hail from –or at least none that I am aware of –but I vividly (and fondly) remember my first taste of theatre. It was at the Stratford Festival, where I sat, an enthralled grade-school kid, through the ramblingly surreal Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, one of Stoppard’s great works. Up until then, my life had mainly been coloured through the lens of music. My father’s position as a musician was the catalyst for my first forays into culture; operas and symphonies were just the norm for me growing up. I still love music, but theatre, more than any other art form, has been what’s inspired me, called me back, and seduced me time and time again over the years.

It will be interesting to note the musicality of translation in the Laszlo and Molnar works, as well as the ways in which director Marton will utilize actual music in the latter. His productions of Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters were notable for the ways they used their scores to highlight the most tender, inexpressible moments. While markedly different, what each work shares is an interestingly harmony of high and low notes. The dark subtext of each provides a satisfyingly nasty edge. It’s like eating a rich goulash with a huge dollop of sour cream: all smooth and creamy on the top, with a rich, meaty interior. Comedy with drama, that leaves you full and nourished by the end.

Kind of reminds me of Soulpepper's production of The Odd Couple this past season, actually. You think it’s a comedy, but… think again. That, to me, is the magic of doing works like The Guardsman and Parfumerie. Forget the Hungarian Suicide Song; this is the real thing.

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