Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey stages an 'odd and interesting play'
By BILL NUTT | The Daily Record
A few years ago, Bonnie J. Monte came upon a play called “Tovarich.” As artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Monte is always on the lookout for rediscovering “forgotten” plays, and the title of this one intrigued her.
“I thought, ‘Oh, a Russian play. I love Russian plays,’ ” Monte says. Her assumption is understandable; the word “tovarich” is Russian for “friend” or “comrade.”
But Monte was in for two surprises. First, “Tovarich” is a French comedy by Jacques Deval that was adapted by the American playwright Robert E. Sherwood. Click here to read more.
When Taking Sides Isn’t Easy
A Review of ‘Tovarich,’ From the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
By ANITA GATES | The New York Times
Change is hard. There is an economic recession, let’s say, and you have to give up Caribbean vacations, day spas and decent wines. Or there is a revolution, and you have to give up your royal title and wealth, leave the country and work as a servant, setting the table (such tacky china!) and polishing the boots of the Parisian bourgeoisie.
The Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey brings us just such a fantasy of displaced Russian nobility, “Tovarich,” in a sometimes thrilling, frequently elating and consistently complex new production. Hearing the play’s premise, it’s easy to think “European screwball comedy,” and “Tovarich” is that — it was made into a 1937 Hollywood film with Charles Boyer and Claudette Colbert — but it’s a great deal more. And to its authors’ credit, it is not obvious whose side we are supposed to take: that of the seemingly noble Bolsheviks who have overthrown Russia’s titled 1 percent, or the charming young Russian prince and grand duchess who find themselves stealing artichokes for dinner and cutting up chemises to make handkerchiefs. Click here to read more.
'Tovarich' at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is an unusual gem
By RONNI REICH | The Star-Ledger
There is no tragedy strong enough to break the "magnificent spirit" of Tatiana Pêtrovna in the play "Tovarich," as her devoted husband and deepest enemy both know.
And while the work itself may be obscure today, it shares the resilience and radiance of its main characters. Written in 1933 by French playwright Jacques Deval and adapted in 1935 by the American author Robert E. Sherwood, it was turned into a film in 1937 and a musical in 1963; Uta Hagen and Luther Adler starred in a 1952 production of it at New York City Center.
It is now receiving a rare revival at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, helmed by artistic director Bonnie J. Monte, who has unearthed an unusual gem. Click here to read more.
Shakespeare Theatre’s ‘Tovarich’ Makes Russian Journey Via Paris
By LIZ KEILL | The Alternative Press
Yet another Russian-flavored play has come to The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, thanks to artistic director Bonnie Monte.
“Tovarich,” by Jacques Deval and adopted from the French by Robert E. Sherwood, is part farce, part comedy, part romance and part drama. Take your pick. It’s all fascinating, especially the relevance of oil as an investment and the political transactions that are afoot.
Written in 1925, the play was presumably a favorite of Adolf Hitler, who saw it three times after the ending had been slightly twisted. He was also assured that the author was suitably Aryan, according to an anthology introduction by John Anderson. The play has been described as “a pretty lesson in tolerance” and Der Fuehrer was delighted with it. In the Nazi version, a scene involving the transfer of money from the Czar’s regime to the Soviet Commissar was changed to the prince saying, “You may take these so-and-so million rubles: and you may take this (striking Gorotchenko in the face) from me.” Click here to read more.
STNJ’s revival of an overlooked classic is a gift to theater lovers
By BOB BROWN | Princeton Packet
REVIVAL seems to be a theme running through this season at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey — not the religious kind but the production kind. Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte has chosen several works that seldom see stage lights these days.
Jacques Deval’s Tovarich was a big hit in Paris in 1933, and later in New York in Robert E. Sherwood’s adaptation. It was even a popular film in 1937 starring Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer. However, its last Broadway revival was more than 60 years ago. What makes some shows last and others fade from view? Ms. Monte is in the business of making sure neglected classics get appreciated by new audiences. Click here to read more.
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey stages an 'odd and interesting play'
By SIMON SALTZMAN | CurtainUp
The sheer joy of discovering and enjoying a neglected gem of dramatic literature at the theater has to also make one wonder what the director Bonnie J. Monte thought when she first came upon Robert E. Sherwood's 1935 adaptation of Jacques Deval's Tovarich. How could this rib-tickling, often laugh-aloud comedy that once enjoyed huge success and popularity have fallen through the cracks?
Tovarich, or "comrade" to us as translated from the Russian, has opened at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey directly following the rarely produced Fallen Angels. by Noel Coward, and it is also a wonderfully entertaining show. This makes for a double whammy of beautifully acted and directed underappreciated, minor classics that have made attendance this season obligatory. Click here to read more.
“Tovarich” Meets Nouveau Riche at STNJ
By SHERRI RASE | QonStage
“Tovarich” (pronounced “tdoh-va-REACH”) is a triumph! Bonnie Monte, director of this play and Artistic Director of Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ), read the play and fell head over heels with it. Her labor of love took three years to become part of STNJ’s season and it is well worth the wait.
Robert E. Sherwood, dramatist and one of the founding members of the Algonquin Round Table, made a brilliant adaptation of Jacques Deval’s potent White Russian drama in 1935, but this is not a dated commentary from the days when Revolution trumped evolution. Capitalist commentary and collaborative milieu are fresh as ever in this masterwork of theatre. It is interesting to note that this gritty fantasy was one of the most produced plays of the time in Europe and the United States. Click here to read more.
“Tovarich” Performed in Grand Style by STNJ
By RUTH ROSS | NJ Arts Maven
It's a French romantic comedy adapted by an award-winning American playwright, a film and even a Broadway musical, but Tovarich by Robert Sherwood has not received a major production since the early sixties. That is, until now, when, under Bonnie J. Monte's impeccable direction, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has mounted an elegant and entertaining production of this play about (very) aristocratic Russian émigrés forced to take domestic jobs with a bourgeois family in 1920s Paris.
Once again STNJ Artistic Director Monte has dusted off a little known play, given it a superb production and enhanced her audience's knowledge of theatrical history. The splendid cast of Tovarich manages, with delicious comic timing and adept performances, to imbue these deluded nobles with a dignity at odds with their down-at-heels situation, while making us care about them very much—so much that, when we learn that a Soviet Commissar who once tortured the Prince and raped the Grand Duchess is a dinner guest they will have to serve, we hold our collective breaths in anticipation of that inauspicious reunion. Click here to read more.
Romantic comedy 'Tovarich' opens at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ
By RICK BUSCIGLIO | Examiner.com
Tales of Russian nobility who lived in exile in Europe following the Russian revolution are familiar to most of us. The British monarchy, for example, cousins to the Russian royalty, provided the mostly penniless exiles with a grand life style. France also welcomed the exiles, many of whom were successful in fleeing with their wealth intact. However the central characters of the play "Tovarich," Russian Prince Mikail Alexandrovitch Ouratieff (Jon Barker) and his wife, Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna (Carly Street) have no personal wealth and are living in a shabby (generous term) sixth floor apartment, think "La Boheme." The key word here is "personal" for the Prince was entrusted with the late Czar's four billion franc fortune now safely deposited in a French bank. His honor prevents him from violating the Czar's trust by using the funds for his personal needs. Click here to read more.
A satirical glint in its twinkling eye
By THOM MOLYNEAUX | Pascack Valley Community Life
If I had a list, "The Top 10 Productions at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey," I’d be busy right now trying to figure out where in the top five to put "Tovarich." This new production of an old-fashioned comedy drama is clearly one of the most fully realized, thoroughly entertaining productions I’ve seen at this first-rate theater company.
"Tovarich," a French play by Jacques Deval and a hit on Broadway in 1935 in an adaption by the American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Sherwood, is "old-fashioned" in the sense that it is intelligent, tightly constructed with likeable characters and a satirical glint in its twinkling eye. It’s in the genre of plays and movies of the period that toyed with mistaken identities and class differences, especially between the wealthy and their servants; stories where the hired help turn out to be rather more interesting and even superior than their superiors. My Man Godfrey and Jeeves immediately come to mind. Click here to read more.