While Grand Salto Theatre’s Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story might have the most difficult title to pronounce (spoiler alert: they teach you the proper pronunciation in the show and it’s actually not that hard), it’s also one of the most endearing stories. Inspired by the true events that led creator-performer Zita Nyarady’s grandparents to fall in love, this show is a physical storytelling piece that incorporates the use of mask and dance with varying degrees of success.
Szeretlek, performed by Nyarady and her husband Myque Franz, is a creative dramatization of a quintessential love story drawn from the interviews Nyarady (and her mother) held with her grandmother, Katalin. Taking place in the small Hungarian village of Kerekegyháza just following World War II, we watch as Nyarady and Franz reenact the almost fairy-tale courtship between Katalin and grandfather Laszlo. A variety of masks and props are used to differentiate between the many characters like Laszlo’s rather overbearing mother and the dashing young Doctor; and moments of dance and acrobatics are incorporated to illustrate the more romantic moments on stage like the September Ball and Katalin’s fever dreams.
The two performers have a lovely chemistry on stage (which makes sense given their marriage irl), which certainly adds an extra layer of charm to the story they are portraying. It almost makes you wonder how Nyarady and Franz made their own love connection (‘A Hungarian Love Story: The Sequel’ #SzeretlekBoogaloo maybe?). Blending elements of mask and dance to reinvent this classic boy-meets-girl tale, this company does a really admirable job at trying to create something that is both emotionally and aesthetically engaging.
Despite the delightful story, there are some odd moments that happen throughout the show. For one, Laszlo’s mother bursts into musical-style song on two occasions, which feels contrived against the rather pastoral tone of the piece. On another occasion, we watch Franz give a brief history presentation on Hungary’s unfortunate position during WWII while using a number of fake noses placed on different parts of his body (the nose on his knee is Germany – get it?) and it feels very hastily thrown together (and that’s not because it’s meant to be delivered by a young student). Finally, some of the more “athletic” choreography feels a little wobbly, particularly the bits where Franz performs the ‘airplane’ lifts, where visibly shaking performers leave me nervous in my seat.
In any case, this would be a great show to bring your kids to given its low stakes, playful nature, and adherence to a happy ending. The Grand Salto Theatre is one of this year’s CAFF winners, which means that Nyarady and Franz have the great opportunity to keep fine-tuning the piece in front of numerous audiences across different cities and provinces over the next few months. Definitely in the running for “Most Adorable Show” at the 2017 Ottawa Fringe Festival, Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story
Presented by The Grand Salto Theatre
Created and Performed by Myque Franz and Zita Nyarady
Venue 4: Odd Box
Friday June 16 @ 8pm
Sunday June 18 @ 6:30pm