Fringe review: Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story

Myque Franz and Zita Nyarady in Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story. Photo supplied.

Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story (Stage 4, Academy at King Edward)

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

There is an amiably homemade quality about Szeretlek: A Hungarian Love Story, a modest collage of family anecdotes about a post-war romance.

In it, real-life couple Zeta Nyarady and Myque Franz tell story of the former’s grandparents, a city girl and a village bookworm who met and fell in love when the former got a job teaching in a country school. 

“True stories don’t always have the logic of storytelling,” we are told in Szeretlek. Fair enough, although the logic of boy meets girl, marries girl, starts family line isn’t exactly a wild departure from conventional storytelling. But taking true stories onto a stage and acting them out demands a certain “theatre” logic — and, in truth, something a little more dynamic and propulsive than Toronto’s Grand Salto Theatre delivers in this sweetly unpretentious show.

The opener is a dance number of moderate skill involving a recalcitrant umbrella and old-people masks, deposited at the side of the stage. Although heightened characters — the boy’s imperious mama, who has an inexplicably cartoonish English accent  — appear, masks don’t get much theatrical mileage thereafter. 

Similarly, the other props in the show, a red hat for example, aren’t used with much theatrical pizzaz. The two performers, likeable both, talk to us directly. Franz teaches us to pronounce the title, Hungarian for “I love you,” and to get up dance a Hungarian two-step called the czardas.

Both dances and songs have the feel of something casually improvised, and pasted together — something you might get up to at a family reunion. Neither performer is strong of voice, and the music involves conventional choices. But Nayaradi has an agreeably old-fashioned look about her; Franz couldn’t be more user-friendly with the audience.

It’s a kind of scrapbooking, apparently, of family stories and theatrical devices. And for us, it’s an hour spent in the company of pleasant people, who haven’t quite found a way to incorporate their theatre school skills into a show. 

As seen at the Winnipeg Fringe.

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