Los Angeles Theater Review: THE GUARDSMAN (A Noise Within in Pasadena)

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by Jesse David Corti on October 8, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


Nationwide, nearly half the couples that get married today end up divorced. The aphorism about the difference between the way relationships are handled by this generation and the so-called greatest generation is “back then when something was Elyse Mirto, Freddy Douglas and (background) Wendy Worthington in A Noise Within's THE GUARDSMAN.broke, we tried to fix it, not buy a new one.” Since the 1911 U.S. premiere of Ferenc Molnár’s The Guardsman, divorce has shifted from unspeakable to taboo to acceptance to commonplace.

Molnár’s comedy is about an actor’s quest to save his relationship with his wife, a talented, witty, pretty, but flighty actress. How does he aim to woo back his woman? By seducing his own wife disguised as another man. Is it mad? Perhaps. Insane? Probably. But that determination to salvage his relationship with the one woman he feels such a strong connection with, though quixotic, is admirable, suspenseful, goofy, and refreshing from all the dark dramas which are centered on a relationship pulling at its last thread.

A Noise Within’s production of The Guardsman, however, is divorce-worthy. Molnár’s smart, barbed dialogue is bogged down by Michael Michetti’s banal direction. The delectable, caviar-refined humor throughout the piece is reduced to Freddy Douglas and Elyse Mirto in A Noise Within's THE GUARDSMAN.vaudevillian slices of spam. Its calloused twenty-first century view of a turn-of-the-century marriage is unoriginal, boring, and lacking coherence.

Guardsman takes place in Budapest, Hungary, and Michetti sets it in that time and place, but the ensemble speaks in a Mid-Atlantic accent. This is only problematic because the guardsman himself is decidedly Austrian. And the only reason that is problematic is because when Douglas opens his mouth as the guardsman, he speaks like an even more over-the-top, slower-speaking version of Borat; it strains logic and believability, reduces the stakes of the entire situation, and is also painfully un-funny.

There’s also no chemistry between Elyse Mirto (The Actress) and Freddy Douglas (The Actor), whether he’s playing the guardsman or merely being the actor, and the production becomes more tedious because of it. The actors not only fail to inhabit Freddy Douglas and Elyse Mirto in A Noise Within's THE GUARDSMAN.the world they live in, but also fail to inhabit the roles they’re required to play. How would these two characters get together in the first place? How can he be considered a great actor? How is he successful and beloved by critics and audience alike? And why does such a smart, successful, and similarly celebrated actress tie herself down to him?

Michetti’s direction of A Noise Within’s Grapes of Wrath last February succeeded because he presented a complex and sprawling tale with intimacy, detail and nuance. But unlike Wrath, this production of The Guardsman lacks specificity to environment and setting and offers scant subtext.

photos by Craig Schwartz

The Guardsman
A Noise Within in Pasadena
scheduled to end on November 30, 2013
for tickets, call 626-356-3100 or visit http://www.ANoiseWithin.org

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