Pacific Resident Theater appears to be making the revival of delightful, if obscure, older plays a specialty. “Fata Morgana,” written by Hungarian playwright Ernest Vajda and rarely produced in America since its Stateside debut in 1924, represents another coup for PRT, a theatrical gem it has polished to a dazzling shine. Director Marilyn Fox and a talented ensemble make a strong case for this entertaining and witty play as a lost classic.
Young college student George (Michael Hanson) is left at his family’s home in the Hungarian countryside while they go to an out-of-town ball. He is meant to spend his time studying, but the unexpected arrival of his married cousin Mathilde (Ursula Brooks) throws that plan into complete disarray.
Mathilde, a blithely manipulative young woman, is amused and intrigued by George’s utter innocence and promptly seduces him. George, of course, falls deeply in love with her, which is less than convenient when his family and her jealous husband, Gabriel (Scott Conte), arrive back at the house.
As the coquettish Mathilde, Brooks offers a turn reminiscent of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, a virtuoso perf with a voice that swoops and shrieks, coos and cuts, while Hanson is convincingly lovelorn and distressed as George.
In a superb perf as Gabriel, Conte plays the confident lawyer full of twitchy, egotistical energy . Sarah Brooke excels as the reasonable Mother and is particularly good in a scene where she questions Mathilde’s motives, and Tony Pasqualini is effective as Father, full of decency and weary politeness. Finally, Irene Roseen is sharply funny as eternal guest Rosalie, hypocritically berating Gabriel about the iniquity of men while scheming to get invited to stay at his home.
Director Fox handles the large ensemble with finesse, particularly in the opening act, in which a great deal of character and plot information is presented during the chaotic family departure, setting up Mathilde’s arrival. Fox’s pacing is equally impressive, and what could be a long show zips by.
Robert Broadfoot’s rural home set provides the necessary sultry ambience, a sky full of stars through a picture window adding a nice touch of romantic atmosphere.