Most people have seen some version of She Loves Me, the holiday show onstage now at PlayMakers’ Repertory Company under the direction of Kirsten Sanderson. Or rather, most people have seen some version of Parfumerie, the original play on which this work and many others are based. Famed films The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail both draw their inspiration from the original work, for example.
That’s because this story is the type of story that is timeless and entertaining, making it a perfect pick for the holidays. The story, with book by Joe Masteroff, takes place in Hungary in the 1930s. More specifically, a large portion of it takes place at and around Maraczek’s Parfumerie, which is beautifully brought to life through an authentic, perfectly detailed set.
The audience is quickly introduced to the employees who work at the shop, including the young bachelor Georg (Michael Maliakel), Mr. Maraczek (Ray Dooley) himself, and the colorful Ilona Ritter (Janet Krupin).
As a normal day in the shop progresses, however, in bursts Amala Balash portrayed by Jenny Latimer with all the whooshing gusto, charm, and energy the character calls for. Balash is in desperate need of a job and, by showing off her selling skills, she gets one, much to the chagrin of Georg, who has taken an instant dislike to her.
The story progresses quickly, moving hilariously through the seasons with sprinkles of “snow” and falling leaves. Mr. Maraczek grows grumpy and cold toward Georg for mysterious reasons, their relationship growing strained. And, both Georg and Amalia, who seem to like each other less and less each day, pine over the letters they write to a person they have never met.
Delightful songs, plenty of humor, and a fun “rom-com” vibe guide the story along, complete with bits of playful choreography sprinkled throughout. And, while the story may be somewhat formulaic, that doesn’t stop it from being any less enjoyable of a ride. Fast set and scene changes keep things moving quickly, and it’s also nice that there is just so much to look at here.
The set is always sparkling and full of tiny, tucked-away details that keep things interesting. The costumes are equally intricate too, right down to the back-seamed stockings. And, the lively cast keeps up the fun.
Maliakel and Latimer play well off of each other; one can almost feel the spark of energy between them. Dooley also stands out here, perfectly balancing the hapless nature of his character with likeability.
As the show winds to a close and all the mysteries are resolved, this play leaves viewers with a warm, fuzz feeling. And, really, is there any better (or more appropriate) way to feel during the holiday season?