Wednesday, December 14, 2011
As the woman whom Asztalos picks on and unknowingly woos pen-pal style, Patricia Fagan has just enough sass to keep up and just enough heart to ground the unlikely (read: not that surprising, also the basis for You've Got Mail) love story. Her chemistry with Dennis is at its best when they bicker, though their Act II slow-burn romance is plenty wonderful too.
The supporting cast is anchored by Joseph Ziegler's endearing turn as shop owner Miklos Hammerschmidt, a fundamentally good man driven all sorts of crazy by the thought that his wife is cheating on him. Kevin Bundy is an appropriately skeezy/charming Stephan Kadash, the Hammerschmidt employee helping her with the cheating. Michael Simpson shines as a daffy do-right clerk who serves as counsellor to the love story and unfortunate fifth business to the infidelity plot. And the adorable Jeff Lillico gives the funniest performance of the lot as the upstart apprentice Arpad, whose mid-action promotion opens him up to an Act II full of riotous pride and self importance, bossing around the eager new apprentice Jancsi (Mike Ross, naturally, pulling double duty as the prat-falling and setpiece-jumping Jancsi and the accordion-playing Musical Director).
The practiced rhythms of the employees at Hammerschmidt's store play like a well-oiled and quirky ensemble should, their less-highlighted interpersonal relationships just as developed as the main plots (the friendship between Dennis' Asztalos and Ziegler's Hammerschmidt is particularly moving). The pace may sag from time to time but vibrant performances make all the difference in Laszlo's wordy comedy.
The Christmas-set comedy is the final piece in Soulpepper's outstanding 14th season, a very sweet way to head into 2012. Helped along by the Distillery District's annual Christmas market, a trip to the ever-so-slightly holiday-tinted Parfumerie is the perfect way to kick off the season.
Soulpepper's current production of Parfumerie plays at The Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto's Distillery District until Dec 31st.
*photos by Cylla von Tiedemann