Ah, the charm of Budapest as lively violins play background to Molnar’s 1917 romantic comedy about a shopkeeper who can’t say no to anyone since he only finds the good in all. Set in an upscale men’s haberdashery, filled with attention to details, young Peter Juhasz (Joe Delafield) aims to please to a fault, as his unfaithful wife Adele (Annie Purcell – who works with him) steals his money for her lover Oscar (John Tufts, top salesman in the shop), as they run off together.
It’s a cat and mouse game as the various characters arrive on the scene in tongue and cheek farcical amusement, poor Peter falling into bankruptcy, returning to work for the Count (Kurt Rhoads) in a cheese business; The Count having fallen head over heels for young Paula (Rachel Napoleon), a shop girl at the haberdashery.
The Count, an older resourceful gent referred to as “Excellency,” comes up with his own scheme to woo Paula and eventually catches Peter’s deficiency of goodness. All the while, the elder Philip (Jeremy Lawrence), also a salesperson at the shop, is the fly on the wall carefully watching who is doing what to whom. But will he tell all to the detriment of Peter and Paula?
There’s a nice set change as the shop converts to the Count’s study on his estate (charming creative set design by Daniel Zimmerman) in a revolving door hysteria as the actors rapidly enter and exit while schemes are concocted. Will the Count win the lovely clever Paula with his proffers of love and wealth? Will Peter ever learn to just say no? And what about Oscar and Adele who have run off to Berlin – do they succeed on Peter’s money? So many questions to be answered.
The cast is, unquestionably across-the-board, delightfully talented in the old fashioned way. Martha Hally’s beautiful period costumes are sensational and Eric Southern does wonders with his subtle lighting.
Fashions for Men was originally produced on Broadway in 1922 with an English translation by Benjamin Glazer. However, the creative hand of director Davis McCallum is also seen in some of the dialogue re-writes in this current production, where he is “intending to make it both less British (by way of Belfast) and more accurate.”
You’ll happily sit through three acts with two intermissions chuckling all the way and, guess what? – – not a single four letter word! Imagine that – how did they ever write a play back when without one! Refreshing to say the least.
Add to that the Mint Theater Company’s newly designed program now the size of a regular playbill!
*Photos: Richard Termine
Fashions for Men, 311 West 43 St., NYC thru March 29th. www.minttheatre.org