“One might wonder how a story that takes place in a Hungarian haberdashery could possibly suit a 21st-century American audience, but the Mint’s production fits like a glove,”1 hailed TheaterMania of FASHIONS FOR MEN. A delightful comedy of character by Ferenc Molnár, FASHIONS tells the story of shop owner Peter Juhász, a saintly beacon of decency who only sees the good in everyone—making him easy prey for the sinners who surround him.

The play was first produced at Budapest’s National Theater in 1917. In 1922 it appeared on Broadway—one year after the Theatre Guild’s wildly successful staging of Molnár’s LILIOM (the basis of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL). The New York Times hailed FASHIONS as “a fresh phase of [Molnár’s] versatile genius.”

Despite acclaim, FASHIONS FOR MEN gathered dust for 93 years—until Mint’s lauded production proved the play’s timeless appeal. “The phrase ‘generous to a fault’ could easily have been coined to describe Peter Juhász, the openhearted but foolish main character in Ferenc Molnár’s 1917 comedy, receiving a delightful revival under Davis McCallum’s direction…with the original English translation niftily spruced up by the company’s artistic director, Jonathan Bank,”2 wrote The New Yorker. FASHIONS FOR MEN received a Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics’ Circle, and Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Revival of a Play—as well as a second Drama Desk nomination for Daniel Zimmerman’s “exquisitely detailed”1 scenery.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár rose to international acclaim with his cosmopolitan fairy tales for adults. Molnár’s plays inventively blended romantic fantasy and sardonic wit; pointed social satire and polished theatricality. Best known today for the mystical folk play Liliom (1922; the basis of the classic musical Carousel) Molnár was immensely prolific as a journalist, short story writer, novelist, and the author of forty-two plays, many of which were performed widely throughout Europe and America.

Born as Ferenc Neumann on January 12, 1878, to a middle-class Hungarian-Jewish family, Molnár grew up amid the elegant milieu of Habsburg-era Budapest. Abandoning his early legal studies at the city’s Royal College of Science, Molnár set his sights on a career in journalism. The writer achieved international fame in 1907, with the publication of A Pál utcai fiúk (The Paul Street Boys), his classic novel of Budapest street gangs, as well as the sensational success of his play Az ördög (The Devil). A risqué supernatural comedy of intrigue, the play had four simultaneous productions in New York City alone.

Molnár’s theatrical career flourished throughout the next decade. The Hungarian premieres of Liliom (1909), A Testőr (The Guardsman, 1910)) and A Farkas (The Tale of the Wolf; 1912) were followed by productions of these plays in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, among other European cities.

Following WWI, Molnár earned both popular affection and critical renown as “the best-known living Continental playwright in America” (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle). In 1921, Liliom marked a monumental success for the Theatre Guild, who also mounted the legendary 1924 production of The Guardsman, a comedy of marital roleplaying starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

While stage productions (as well as many Hollywood film adaptations) of Molnár plays appeared regularly into the 1930s, the rise of Nazism impelled the playwright’s 1940 emigration to the United States, where he lived in a room at New York’s Plaza Hotel. Still a theatrical institution in America and Europe (though banned in Communist Hungary), the playwright died after a long illness in New York in 1952, survived by his third wife, actress Lili Darvas.

Over half a century later, the writer of plays designed with “romantic imagination and colorful sophistication” (Associated Press), and crafted with “virtuoso skill” (The New York Times), Ferenc Molnár elegantly returns to the stage with Fashions for Men.

By Maya Cantu

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CAST

  • Mark Bedard
  • Joe Delafield
  • Jeremy Lawrence
  • Rachel Napoleon
  • Annie Purcell
  • Kurt Rhoads
  • Michael Schantz
  • Maren Searle
  • John Seidman
  • Jill Tanner
  • John Tufts
  • Gabra Zackman

CREATIVES

  • Sets Daniel Zimmerman
  • Costumes Martha Hally
  • Lights Eric Southern
  • Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw
  • Props Joshua Yocom
  • Casting Judy Bowman
  • Production Stage Manager Allison Deutsch
  • Assistant Stage Manager Jeff Meyers
  • Illustration Stefano Imbert
  • Graphics Hey Jude Design, Inc.
  • Advertising The Pekoe Group
  • Press David Gersten & Associates

JAMES LEVERETT
PROFESSOR OF DRAMATURGY AND DRAMATIC CRITICISM, YALE SCHOOL OF DRAMA

James Leverett is an expert in European theater of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has worked as a dramaturg at the Mark Taper Forum, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Theatre for a New Audience, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and New York Shakespeare Festival. In 1988, he received the first Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas Award for service to the field. He holds a B.A. in German from Millsaps College, an M.A. in German from Rutgers University, and an M.A. in Theatre from the City University of New York.

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ELIZABETH RAJEC
AUTHOR OF FERENC MOLNÁR: BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elizabeth Rajec is the author of a comprehensive, two-volume Bibliography on the work of Ferenc Molnár. As a Fulbright scholar, she conducted her research on the playwright in Budapest, Vienna and New York. She received her master’s and doctorate degrees in Germanic language and literature from CUNY—where she also taught courses in literature and library science.

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MAYA CANTU
THEATER HISTORIAN AND DRAMATURG

Maya Cantu is a theater historian, scholar and dramaturg devoted to the revitalization of forgotten classics. She recently completed her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at Yale School of Drama, where she received her MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism in 2010. Her research focuses on Broadway plays and musicals of the modernist era. Maya is Mint Theater’s Dramaturgical Advisor and the author of the Ferenc Molnár biography that appears in our program and flyer.

IVAN SANDERS
PROFESSOR OF HUNGARIAN LITERATURE AND SLAVIC LANGUAGES, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Ivan Sanders was born in Budapest in 1944 and left Hungary in 1956 after the failed Hungarian Revolution. He received his B.A. at CUNY and his Ph.D. in comparative literature at NYU. He is Professor Emeritus of English at Suffolk Community College, Long Island, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University, where he teaches courses in Central European drama and film—including modern Hungarian literature and cinema. He has also translated many modern and contemporary Hungarian novels, short fiction, and essays into English.

ISTVAN L. VARKONYI
AUTHOR OF FERENC MOLNÁR AND THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN "FIN DE SIÈCLE"

Istvan Varkonyi is Associate Professor of German in the Department of French, German, Italian, and Slavic at Temple University. His area of research has been the literature and culture of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, as well as the modernist literature of Central Europe. Dr. Varkonyi has been a recipient of two German Academic Exchange Commission (DAAD) Fellowships as well as two Fulbright Research Fellowships. He received his Ph.D. in German Language and Literature from Washington University, St. Louis.

AGNES NIEMETZ
HUNGARIAN TRANSLATOR AND INTERPRETER, HUNGARIAN TRANSLATION SERVICES

Agnes Niemetz is the founder of Hungarian Translation Services in NYC, which currently serves hundreds of clients across the world. She has been certified as a language specialist, simultaneous interpreter, and immigration court interpreter by three U.S. government agencies. Ms. Niemetz acted as Hungarian Language consultant on our production of FASHIONS FOR MEN. She will join Artistic Director Jonathan Bank to discuss both Glazer’s English translation of the play and Molnár’s original Hungarian script, Uri Divat.

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