‘Parfumerie’ Tells a Sweet Story at Pierson
Miklos Laszlo’s “Illatszertar” (Parfumerie) premiered onstage in Budapest in 1937. When Laszlo immigrated to the United States from Hungary in 1938, the play was adapted as a movie script and became “The Shop around the Corner” (1940) with James Stewart, Frank Morgan and Margaret Sullivan. Recent audiences might remember Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” (1998), which was also inspired by “Parfumerie.”
In 2009, the play was first performed in the United States in Sarasota, Florida, after Laszlo’s nephew, EP Dowdall, adapted it to English. According to internet sources, many of Laszlo’s plays are performed constantly in Hungary, but because they have not been translated almost none are performed here.
The story is about Mr. Hammerschmidt (Mitch Feinstein), the owner of a parfumerie, who learns his wife is having an affair with one of his employees. He immediately suspects Tyler Gaylord (George Horvath), whom the family has invited to the Hammerschmidt house on numerous occasions. Gaylord is fired, but wait, it’s not him.
In the meantime, Gaylord is in love with a woman he has been corresponding with for a year and a half. He has never met her, but knows she is lovely, and perfect, unlike his hateful co-worker Amalia Balash (Mariel Suarez).
This is a lovely romantic story that takes place before Christmas. Unfortunately, I don’t know if Pierson Playhouse audiences will appreciate the leisurely pace in which the story unfolds–and one almost wishes some of the first act, which is close to two hours, could have been cut.
Please go, but realize this is as much about the journey as the destination. Turn off the cell phone, settle into a seat and be transported to another era.
You will be rewarded with the able direction of Brandon Ferruccio, in his Theatre Palisades debut, along with some top-notch acting. (I’d love to see Ferruccio given a fast-paced comedy, just to see what he would do with it.)
The supporting cast may have stolen the show on opening night. Kevin Kempis plays Arpad Novack, a delivery person who likes to hit people with his bike–with great enthusiasm. When he gets promoted and gets an assistant Fritz (Hana Pak), the duo is wonderfully entertaining. I just wish the audience didn’t have to wait so long for their delightful interchanges.
Manfred Hofer, as Mr. Sipos, is a family man, with a wife and kids, just trying to hang onto his job. He also serves as the “priest/busybody” who hears most of the confessions from other clerks in the shop. Played to perfection, he’s another actor who performs his craft so well that the audience knows his character instantly.
Kristian Kordula (Steve Kadar) plays the perfect cad, slick and likeable. Kiara Feliciano (Ilona Ritter) makes her Los Angeles stage debut. Although her part is small, she is so interesting on stage, one is riveted to her. Brittany Angel Turner (Betty Molnar) in interesting as the old maid store cashier.
As the leads, Gaylord and Suarez are sweet. Suarez, a salsa dancer, is making her theatrical debut with this play and one hopes that both actors will come back to Theatre Palisades. And as the “heavy,” Feinstein serves aptly as the cuckolded but forgiving husband.
June Lissandrello has once again done an outstanding job with the costumes, and Sherman Wayne has designed a cheerful little store for the actors to sell their wares.
Produced by Martha Hunter and Wayne, the play runs through December 9 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. at Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Rd. Visit:theatrepalisades.org or call (310) 454-1970.