Features:

‘Guardsman’ runs in Madison through July 26
by Bill Nutt | The Daily Record

Bonnie J. Monte, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, has been involved in theater long enough to trust her instincts.

Take “The Guardsman” by the Hungarian-born playwright Ferenc Molnar. Typically, this story of jealousy, disguise, and suspected infidelity is staged as a farce. The 1931 film version with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne was also played for laughs.

But Monte had a different view. “I suspected there was a deeper play underneath the farce that was getting lost in translation,” she says. “This was based solely on instinct. It was nothing I could prove, because I don’t read Hungarian.” Click here to read more.


Reviews:

‘The Guardsman,’ as you’ve never seen it before, at The Shakespeare Theatre
by Richard Carter | Examiner

“What did we just see?” Whether you formulate those words as a question or exclaim them, you could not be blamed for any bewilderment, everyone’s reaction to the Saturday, July 11, performance of “The Guardsman” by The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. The Company scored a huge hit with its world premiere adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s 1910 play, a stupefyingly perplexing, confusing and agonizing work that, perhaps until now, has wrongly been presented as romantic comedy. Artistic Director Bonnie J Monte’s printed notes aptly warn: “[I]t poses terribly disturbing questions at the same time that it provokes gales of laughter.”

Reported here, two exclusive interviews with musician Gábor Lukin (a Molnár heir) and actor Brent Harris arose following the Act III curtain. The musician’s presence enhanced the unique occasion. He is Ferenc Molnár’s great grandson, and he significantly contributed to this production both with music and in supplying the text on which Bonnie Monte crafted the script. Click here to read more.

'The Guardsman' delivers fresh take on Broadway classic in Madison
by Jonathan Edmondson | The Star Ledger

"Nothing is certain, even if it seems to be certain."

That line, boasted deep into Act II of "The Guardsman" is perhaps an apt summation of Ferenc Molnár's comedy, now playing at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison. The show, which originally lit up Broadway in 1924, brims with questions, the most important being "is anyone on stage really telling the truth?"

In unskilled hands, the renowned Hungarian dramatist's string of uncertainties could easily become muddled. But luckily, this adaptation of "The Guardsman" is carefully driven by director Bonnie J. Monte and her masterful understanding of the text. Click here to read more.

HILARIOUS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING COMEDY IN WORLD PREMIERE ADAPTATION LIGHTS UP THE STNJ STAGE
by Ruth Ross | NJ Arts Maven

It is an axiom of drama that comedy—whether penned by Aristophanes (Lysistrata), Shakespeare (Much Ado about Nothing) or farcemeister Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor)—often reveals the darker aspects of human nature. Perhaps that's why writing, directing and performing comedy are so tricky: Too broad and you lose the commentary; too dark and you risk losing the "funny."

This is especially apparent in the latest version of Ferenc Molnár's boulevard comedy, The Guardsman, now receiving an elegant, charming and very entertaining world premiere at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison. Under Bonnie J. Monte's master directorial and adaptor's hand, this new translation from the original Hungarian by Molnar's great-grandson Gábor Lukin will have you laughing uproariously at the antics of a stage couple while pondering the meaning of identity, trust, fidelity and truth—especially as it applies to actors who professionally assume other personae, create other realities and parade them on a stage. This version emphasizes the darker aspects of the relationship among the three main characters, a triangle fraught with sexual tension, yearning and deception. Click here to read more.

Review: ‘The Guardsman’ at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey superior theatre
by Rick Busciglio | NJ Footlights

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is presenting a world premiere adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s The Guardsman. This hilarious adaptation of this classic is the first English translation of The Guardsman from the original unabridged Hungarian. Molnár’s great grandson Gábor Lukin, who attended the opening night performance on Saturday, translated the play for STNJ's Artistic Director Bonne J. Monte who then adapted it for the stage and has directed this superior production.

On the surface the play is a very funny tale of marriage infidelity, however it has a provocative, thought-provoking core. The plot centers on a husband and wife, both stars of the Budapest theatre who have been married for only six months, unfortunately it is the normal length of past love affairs of the wife, Helene, The Actress (Victoria Mack). Fully aware of this The Actor (Jon Barker) fears she may have grown tired of not only marriage but also him! To test the situation, he decides to use his acting skills to assume the disguise of a noble guardsman in an attempt to seduce his wife, thus proving her unfaithfulness. However, here is his dilemma....what if she refuses his advances?....is it because of her love solely for him, or is it because she recognized him! Can doubt ever be removed? Click here to read more.

'The Guardsman' opens in Madison
by Karen Nowosad | Examiner

“Was she acting or was that really what she felt?” This question was being discussed by audience members as they left the Opening Night performance of “The Guardsman” on Saturday evening, July 11th at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. The evening was lively and filled with a good humorous tone. The Guardsman” is a well-produced show that makes for a most enjoyable visit to the theater. And if you have ever wondered whether actors stop acting when they are not in front of an audience, then this is the play for you.

“The Guardsman” is directed by Bonnie Monte who is celebrating her 25th year during this 2015 Season as the Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. In her welcoming statement before the show started, Monte told the audience that directing this show had been a wonderful experience. She then introduced Gábor Lukin who had come in from Los Angeles to help with the translation of the play from the original Hungarian version. Lukin is a great grandson of the playwright, Ferenc Molnár. Molnár wrote 42 plays and was the first Hungarian playwright to receive international acclaim. A celebrated journalist and short story author, he also served as a war correspondent during World War I. “The Guardsman” is one of Molnár’s most well-known works. Click here to read more.

“The Guardsman”–True Molnár Gem
by Sherri Rase | QonStage

Ferenc Molnár’s “The Guardsman” is given a proper world premiere treatment by Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) in its newly opened production. If you’d read the extant translation of “The Guardsman” available before, you may not have been satisfied overall, and STNJ Artistic Director Bonnie Monte certainly was not. Among the pantheon of playwrights who are the best friends she never got to know in person, Molnár was always at the edge of her artistic consciousness. A new collaboration with Molnár’s great-grandson Gábor Lukin, among those in attendance Opening Night, includes not only a very literal translation of Molnár’s “Testor,” but also an arrangement by Lukin of the waltz “Printemps,” composed for Molnár’s younger sister. And yet, the play is still the thing.

Set in May 1910 in Budapest, the month of May-ing finds the Actor (Jon Barker), as the not-so-merry lad, who doesn’t feel like singing. As he’s married to the love of his life, he knows her straying ways. The Actress (Victoria Mack) is now a married maid who has a May-dream of her own and the Actor’s fear is that it does not include him. The Actress has not had a paramour who lasted more than six months. Though they were married in December—a whole flip of the May-December romance—they are at the critical point. Yet, the Actor has a Plan! Enlisting the family friend, the Critic (Brent Harris), the Actor reveals this convoluted passion play and thus the game is afoot. Add in an eavesdropping chambermaid (Saluda Camp) and a pot-stirring châtelaine known as Mama (Wendy Barrie-Wilson), and we have our sparring partners. Mama and the Actor get along like Moses and Pharaoh and there’s a louche lurkiness around the Critic. He’s followed the Actress’ career as well as the Actor’s, but wants function and form to follow. He’s cuckolded the Actor a thousand times in fantasy, but what about fact? Click here to read more.

'The Guardsman' The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey presents a new adaptation of a Molnar comedy
by Bob Brown | The Princeton Packet

With this world-premiere adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s The Guardsman, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey continues its mission to present “unduly neglected” plays that deserve a wider audience. Artistic Director Bonnie Monte spoke passionately on opening night about her experience directing this little-performed work by a playwright whom she considers to be among the greats.

To highlight the event, she introduced Ferenc’s great-grandson, Gábor Lukin, who had translated the work afresh from the original Hungarian. For Ms. Monte, this translation reveals “the more profound play” that she always suspected was there — compared with other versions that make it seem like a piece of comic fluff. Click here to read more.

Shakespeare Theatre’s ‘The Guardsman’ is a clever comedy with a dark side
by Jay Lustig | NJArts.net

The main character of the Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár’s “The Guardsman” thinks he’s put himself in a win-win situation. He’s a famous actor in Budapest, in 1910, and his new wife seems to have fallen out of love with him. So he devises a way to test her. He’ll impersonate a fabulously dashing military officer — a guardsman — and see if he can get his wife to fall in love with the character.

If she resists, he’ll be reassured. And if she succumbs, and least he’ll know the joy of winning her love again (through his character), and he’ll have the satisfaction of knowing he pulled off the ultimate acting challenge. Click here to read more.

Shakespeare Theatre presents screwball comedy
by C.W. Walker | Daily Record

He is petulant, jealous and insecure. She is glamorous and something of a diva, with a history of lovers so long, everyone has lost track of the exact number. Both of them are well-known popular actors who are also egotistical, self-centered and tend toward histrionics. And then they decide to marry. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

When Ferenc Molnar's "The Guardsman" opens, this theatrical couple has been married for all of six months and, already, she is bored. He can tell; she keeps playing Chopin on the parlor piano. This makes him agonized, desperately fearful that her eye and heart are poised to wander. Click here to read more.

‘The Guardsman’ Review: All the World’s a Stage
by Terry Teachout | The Wall Street Journal

To American audiences, Ferenc Molnár is one of the best-known unknown playwrights of the 20th century. In addition to “Liliom,” which Rodgers and Hammerstein turned into “Carousel,” more than a dozen English-language versions of his other Hungarian comedies were produced on Broadway throughout the ’20s and ’30s. But Molnár, who fled to the U.S. in 1940 to escape Hitler’s wrath, was thereafter unable to rekindle his theatrical career other than fitfully prior to his death in 1952. Hence the importance of... Click here to read more.

Review: ‘The Guardsman,’ at the Shakespeare Theater, Pricks the Heart While Eliciting Laughs
by Michael Sommers | The New York Times

The green-eyed monster of jealousy rears its head at the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey in Madison, but not, as might be expected, in “Othello.” Instead, prepare to meet “The Guardsman,” a 1910 comedy that successfully seizes the potentially tragic theme of marital mistrust and twists it into mirth.

The play is one of the few among more than 40 written by the Hungarian author Ferenc Molnar that still enjoy the light of the stage. An illustrious international figure during his 1910-30s heyday, Molnar is now mostly remembered — if at all — for “The Play’s the Thing”; “Liliom,” which was the basis for the musical “Carousel”; and, possibly, “The Swan,” the 1956 movie version of which starred Grace Kelly. Click here to read more.

BWW Reviews: THE GUARDSMAN at STNJ-A Theatrical Jewel in Madison
by Marina Kennedy | Broadway World

"This myth that one can create a perfect illusion, it's just a myth."    -The Guardsman

The Guardsman, a world premiere adaptation, is now on stage at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) through July 26th. It is an outstanding portrayal of Ferenc Monlar's comedic masterpiece. The theatre's Artistic Director, Bonnie J. Monte directed and adapted the show. Ms. Monte has once again proven her superb talents for presenting plays on the Madison stage that are extraordinary in every respect. Get your tickets now. This show is a real charmer.

Set in Budapest in the early 1900's, The Guardsman tells the tale of one of the country's famous leading men, The Actor who believes that his beautiful wife, The Actress is losing interest in their marriage. Tortured by his insecurity, he tests her fidelity by wooing her disguised as an official guardsman. Longtime family friend, The Critic is also enamored with The Actress. Yet, he reluctantly agrees to go along with The Actor's ruse. Mama, adopted mother to The Actress, makes every effort to maintain order in a home that is wrought with drama and confusion. The clever interplay of the characters makes you wonder who is really being deceived. Click here to read more.

‘The Guardsman’ Explores Trust and Deception at Shakespeare Theatre
by Liz Keill | TAPinto.net

MADISON, NJ – An elegant setting is perfectly proper in "The Guardsman," a Ferenc Molnar romantic comedy about love, suspicion and pretence. Fidelity is being tested as husband and wife spar, enrage and engage each other.

A superb cast at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, in this turn of the century play directed by Bonnie J. Monte, challenges our emotions as we shift our allegiance between Helene, The Actress (Victoria Mack) and The Actor (Jon Barker). They’ve been married for 11 years, but the husband, so much in love with his wife that he deliberately sets out to see just how faithful she really is. He wonders if she would rather have ‘excitement’ with a new suitor. So he disguises himself as a soldier, (a guardsman) set on wooing her while her husband is presumably away performing plays elsewhere. Click here to read more.

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review: The Guardsman
by Simon Saltzman | CurtainUp

Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar's rarely resuscitated, ultra sheer romantic comedy has been newly translated as well as directed by Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte. It's based on a literal translation from the Hungarian by Gabor Lukin, Molnar's great grandson) for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

It is famously known as the vehicle that Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne chose in 1924 for their premiere partnership. History tells us this initial triumph bonded them for virtually a lifetime of co-starring successes. Nothing like that is expected of John Barker and Victoria Mack even if their dramatic range and comedic capabilities takes more than adequate command of the absurdity and inconsequentiality of Molnar's rather ridiculous story. Click here to read more.

New Translation of Molnár's 1910 The Guardsman; Deftly Performed
by Bob Rendell | Talkin Broadway

Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne triumphed on Broadway in 1924 in Grace I. Colbron and Hans Bartsch's frothy translation of Ferenc Molnár's 1910 Hungarian comedyThe Guardsman (and were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor and Actress for their performances in the 1931 film adaptation). However entertaining the Colbron-Bartsch adaptation, it severely truncated the play and the philosophical profundity and sadness which underpinned the somewhat farcical boulevard comedy.

Frank Marcus, Richard Nelson, and now Bonnie J. Monte have written new translations of The Guardsman aimed at bringing to English speaking audiences, the depth, detail and richness of the original. It is notable that, according to Nelson, Molnár wrote The Guardsman while recovering from a mental breakdown and attempted suicide brought about by his break-up with an actress. Furthermore, Molnár himself said that the Colbron-Bartsch version was not an accurate reflection of the play that he had written. Click here to read more.

“The Guardsman” brings hilarious love triangle to Shakespeare Theatre of NJ’s main stage
by Janine M. Torsiello | Morris Beats

Sometimes it is the things we do to ourselves, especially in relationships, that cause us the most pain and consternation. In the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's latest main stage production of Ferenc Molnar's “The Guardsman,” the main character finds that out the hard way. The plot centers around an actor and his actress wife and their marriage. The actor believes his lovely wife is cheating on him and he sets out to create a character – a Guardsman – to seduce her and catch her in the act of infidelity. As he unveils his plan chaos and hilarity ensue. We meet the leading stage couple of 1910 Budapest, as the husband, only referred to as The Actor, is getting ready to leave for a very big performance run and he is nervous. His wife and their friend and theater critic Dr. Mezei are trying to calm him down and prop him up as he paces and rants about how worried he is about the performance. But we find out shortly that he is really setting up his wife, Helene, the Actress, whom he believes is unfaithful, to see if he can catch her in a tryst.

The household is a strange one to begin with as the Actress, played by Victoria Mack and the Actor, played by Jon Barker, employ a housemaid they call Mama, played by Wendy Barrie-Wilson, to play at being Helene's mother. They also employ Bette, the Maid, played by Saluda Camp. Barrie-Wilson and Camp are very funny as they interact with their employers. Barrie-Wilson plays the typical mother-in-law type as she undermines the Actor and conspires with Helene to keep her secrets. She is very brash and sneaky. She has great stage presence and steals a scene or two. Camp is very nervous and jerky and overly sensitive as she reacts to being ordered around and yelled at when she messes up or eavesdrops on her bosses. Click here to read more.

The Guardsman at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
by Patrick Maley | Exeunt Magazine

From early Roman comedy through Shakespeare and beyond, the comic stage has made much of mistaken identity fostered by disguise, but Ferenc Molnár’s 1910 play The Guardsman, now receiving a lively staging at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, takes the trope in a compelling new direction: what if one’s disguise fools one’s self? The disguise removed, does one still have access to the interior life of the false construction brought to life in disguise?