“I think The Guardsman is a very funny play about a very bad marriage.”—Gregory Mosher
INDEPENDENT PLAYERS 2018-2019 Season opens with a production of the very popular play entitled “The Guardsman” by the Hungarian-born Ferenc Molnar, who is widely regarded as Hungary’s most celebrated and controversial playwright. Some audience members might recognize Molnar if they saw his equally well-known “The Play’s the Thing” which IP produced in its 2003-2004 Season. “The Guardsman” has long been on the “must do” list of plays, and it seemed like a great choice with which to open its 41st Season. As it often does, IP is again producing a play which has not been done locally, but deserves to be because it is a really enjoyable play. This wonderful play can be seen Fridays and Saturdays, September 21 through October 6, 2018 at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division Street (8th floor), Elgin. Curtain time is 7:30 PM.
THE STORY: Elegant Vienna at the turn of the century provides an ideal setting for Ferenc Molnar’s thoughtful comedy of character. A popular theatrical couple identified as the Actor and the Actress have been married for just six months. The Actor is obsessively jealous and fears his wife is about to follow the pattern established by former romances, none of which has lasted longer than six months. Certain that her pensive moods and dreamy restlessness are signs of boredom, he is determined to test the strength of her love for him and, at the same time, provide himself with the most challenging role of his career. The test he devises is at the heart of the comedy, incorporating elements of improbability that in less subtle hands might have led to farce but as developed by Molnar provide instead a perceptive observation of both characters’ emotional needs and responses.
One commentator explains “The play revolves like a polished gem, revealing at each turn yet another facet of a complex relationship in which reality and illusion are indivisible. The playwright makes of them one world where real life becomes indistinguishable from the life of the theatre and characters communicate more effectively through nuance than through any direct exchange of words or expression of feeling. Actor and Actress play out an elaborate fantasy . . . for themselves, for each other and for the spectator, with results that are unexpected but strangely illuminating.”
In his writing, Molnar was never connected to any one literary movement but he did utilize the precepts of Naturalism, Neo-Romanticism, Expressionism, and the Freudian psychoanalytical concepts, but only as long as they suited his desires. One commentator stated: “in his graceful, whimsical, sophisticated drawing-room comedies, he provided a felicitous synthesis of Naturalism and fantasy, realism and Romanticism, cynicism and sentimentality, the profane and the sublime.” Surely, he was influenced by the likes of Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Gerhart Hauptmann, and, according to playwright, Richard Nelson, The Guardsman is “part Strindberg, part Pirandello and part late Feydeau” because it is “both profound and very funny.” In other words, “it presents theater as a metaphor for life’s illusions” and it is also “a knock-down, drag-out battle between a man and a woman (husband and wife in this case).” In addition, Nelson says, “This play skips along the edge of madness, and never quite falls off; but it often teeters, and the viewer gasps.” By fusing the realistic narrative and stage tradition of Hungary with Western influences into a cosmopolitan amalgam, Molnar emerged as a versatile artist whose style was uniquely his own.
“The Guardsman” is being presented at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division Street, Elgin. It plays September 21-22, 28-29, October 5-6, 2018 at 7:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased online at www.independentplayers.org and at the door prior to each performance (cash/check only). For reservations or information, phone IP at (847) 697-7374.
[“As Artistic Director of Independent Players, I attend as many shows as I can with the idea that I will discover one that would be great to bring to Elgin and the Fox Valley. In 1978, after we had just presented our first production of our first Season—the musical revue Jacques Brel is Aliveand Well and Living in Paris—I had the good fortune to see “The Guardsman” with Brian Bedford and Maggie Smith as the Actor and Actress at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. I was completely taken with it, of course, and I loved them as well! Early this summer, I remembered that experience of 40 years ago, and long story short, we are finally presenting the play—thereby giving this gem to everyone in Elgin and the suburbs!]