We gave it a B
In a world of online dating and Google+, Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo?s 1937 romantic comedy Parfumerie takes us back to a simpler time when love could be communicated with words alone. Well, if they are the rights words directed at the right person at the right time. Okay, maybe it wasn?t a simpler time.
The play, running through Dec. 22 at Beverly Hills’ new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, follows two employees at an upscale boutique in 1937 Budapest who discover that they’ve forged an anonymous romantic relationship for two years through love letters dropped off at each other?s mailboxes. Sound familiar? Yes, the story has been adapted in films such as The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail, as well as the Broadway musical She Loves Me.
Those Americanized updates play better than Parfumerie, which divides its time between the budding young lovers (American Pie‘s Eddie Kaye Thomas and True Blood‘s Deborah Ann Woll) and shop owner Miklos Hammerschmidt (Richard Schiff), whose marriage founders after he discovers his wife is having an affair with one of his employees. Schiff adds maturity to the plot, but his sorrow brings down the tone to a point where you almost don?t believe in love any more.
But when the action turns to the two clueless lovebirds, either battling it out in hilarious name-calling fights or confessing their true feelings, the comedy really shines. Thomas and Woll have great energetic chemistry together, and Woll is absolutely delightful as Amalia, a woman so in love with the idea of love that she doesn?t actually put much thought into it. Unfortunately, her character doesn’t appear on stage until late in the first act. While she freshens up director Mark Brokaw’s production like a sweet perfume, the aroma doesn’t last long enough to sustain throughout the entire show. B
(Tickets: thewallis.org or 310-746-4000)