Romance in the Air: Eddie Kaye Thomas, Deborah Ann Woll and Richard Schiff Star in Parfumerie

By Evan Henerson
08 Dec 2013

Mark Brokaw
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Annenberg production of Parfumerie features Eddie Kaye Thomas (Dog Sees God, The Golden Age, the "American Pie" movies) and Deborah Ann Woll ("True Blood") as Georg and Amalia, with Richard Schiff (Glengarry Glen Ross, "The West Wing") as the store owner Mr. Hammerschmidt.

Clearly there's something about less modern plays, set in simpler times, that strikes a chord around the holidays. The L.A.-based Schiff had his choice of two plays and a film and opted for Parfumerie. Thomas tried to talk himself out of accepting the role so he could spend his first holiday season at his new home in Brooklyn.

"But then they sent me the script," said Thomas. "It was such a beautiful story and it was so thrilling to work with Mark and the whole idea of opening the Annenberg Center was so appealing, it would have been insane for me to not do it."

"There's something both about the role and the era that this takes place in," added Schiff. "This is taking place in Old World Hungary before everything changed. The way the playwright captured the turmoil without talking about it touched me somehow."

Parfumerie will be Thomas's professional L.A. stage debut. Woll hasn't been on stage since her work as an undergraduate in the drama department at USC six years ago. But to hear her tell it, the film and TV work — including five seasons as teen vampire Jessica Hamby on HBO's "True Blood" — have been something of a sidetrack.

"In film, just when you feel like you're starting to get it, you're out," said Woll who won the role of Amalia through taped auditions sent to Brokaw. "It's nice to spend a whole month with the same material and be able to dig in deeply."

To a person, Brokaw and his cast members maintain that, despite Parfumerie's comic holiday cheer, Laszlo and Dowdall provide thematic depths to be mined. The play is set in Budapest in 1937, in the height of what would be the Great Depression and following Hitler's rise to power in Germany. When a policeman comes by to instruct Hammerschmidt to close the store early, there is a socio-political subtext to that curfew that Jewish audiences of that period would have understood.

The scene is brief and the reference is not explicit. Schiff said he made a point of emphasizing to the cast that this little family of shop employees is clinging to beliefs and values which are being threatened.