It's a farcical gambit that always pays off in headaches for the protagonist -- and laughs for the audience. A husband who suspects his wife of infidelity attempts to test her, only to discover that a) she's not so chaste; or b) she is chaste but wants to teach him a lesson.
Either way, Shakespeare, Moliere and Feydeau all made hay of the premise, as did Hungarian farceur Ferenc Molnar. He's best known for penning Liliom, the drama on which Carousel was based, but his comedies The Play's The Thing and The Guardsman are revived more often.
The latest playhouse to stage The Guardsman is San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre, in a production directed by associate artist and A.C.T. Veteran, Albert Takazauckas. Opening May 13 after starting previews May 8, The Guardsman ends its run on June 7.
Molnar's play premiered in Budapest in 1911. In 1924, Lunt & Fontanne starred in The Guardsman on Broadway. This romantic comedy of love and intrigue in the theatre world takes place during the last days of the Austro Hungarian Empire. When a jealous actor begins to doubt his wife's fidelity, he disguises himself as a Viennese guardsman and is shocked when his spouse doesn't spurn his advances.
Starring as the possessive husband is James Carpenter, a veteran of Berkeley Rep. Lynnda Ferguson (A.C.T.'s Marriage of Figaro) plays the wife. Also in the cast are Tom Blair, Joy Carlin, Jessa Brie Brickner, Hector Correa and Sandy Kelly Hoffman. As a special, free event, director Takazauckas will lead a discussion about the show May 12, 5:30-6:30 PM. For tickets to the show itself ($14-$51) at American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary St., call (415) 749-2228.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Robert Simonson