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I saw Nők az idegösszeomlás szélén (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, by David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane based on the film by Pedro Almodóvar; translated by Varró Dániel) on April 10 at the Átrium Film-Színház with the following cast:

  • Peller Anna - Pepa
  • Szomor Győrgy - Iván
  • Janza Kata - Lucia
  • Gubik Petra - Candela
  • Prescsák Zita - Paulina
  • Horváth Dániel - Carlos [+ uncredited: Young Iván]
  • Simon Panna - Marisa
  • MÁZs - Taxisofőr [Taxi driver]
  • Petridizs Hrisztosz - Rendező [Director], Főfelügyelő [Inspector General/~Police Inspector], Bíró [Judge]
  • Papadimitriou Athina - Pepa házfelügyelőnője [...Pepa's Concierge?], Cristi, Ülnök 1 [assessor 1, leaving open the question of who was assessor 2], Nyomozó [Detektive, in this case I think ~Police Inspector]
  • Pintér Janka - Fiatal Lucia [Young Lucia]
  • Dravetz András - Malik
  • Szabó Dóra, Katz Zsófia, Aczél Gergő, Oláh Tibor - various uncredited roles; I recognized Oláh Tibor as the paramedic, and someone has to have been the invisible assessor 2, and one woman was the cleaning lady in Lucia's house.
     
+ the Színház orchestra [but deffo not all of them?], the Színház... seasonal band? [the guys up on stage, I presume]. There must have been an additional few dancers but none are credited on the website.

A synopsis of the plot in English can be found here. As far as I understood, the show I saw pretty much adhered to that, with one exception that I'll get to later; I won't be recounting the story here. Instead I'll start with a few general remarks about the venue and play, then move on to comment on each actor's role(s) in turn.

The Átrium is a pretty nice venue, and a good excuse to go to the Buda side of the city at least once every visit I make. Seeing the actors and musicians from up close on a smallish stage is gr8, and more than makes up for the lack of surtitles. That being said, holy shit is it LOUD. I usually have a roaring headache by the time the intermission comes around, and will be completely useless for the rest of the evening after the show ends. So if you're a sensitive flower in terms of noise or sensory impressions like me, be better to yourself than I was and bring some ear plugs just in case. I do appreciate their free Wi-Fi tho, heh.

I was very impressed by the way this show used projections (yes!! A good use of projections!! I couldn't believe it either) in a way that almost transforms the stage into a comic panel, with text giving extra information and colors and patterns adding personality  (Pepa's flat gets a completely different pattern than Lucia's), as well as using it in a more practical sense to show the screen of Pepa's TV. It also makes a lot of scenes look like a weird real-life music video or something, where the action goes on in the foreground, while on the background we get close-up projections of the actor's faces (clearly filmed beforehand and chosen according to daily cast) - the only thing I found a bit confusing there was that the projected background faces move, but don't really act, except in the most flat and mannequin-like way imaginable. It does have the effect of not distracting too much from what the actors are simultaneously doing in real-time. The overall effect for that particular look was a bit kitschy and dreamy, but worked nicely with the way we usually saw several things happen simultaneously on stage as well, with mundane everyday actions blurring into daydreams and memories. I don't have the theater knowledge to describe what exactly was done and how, but the impression I got was that this was a stage play performed like a movie, with cuts fading in and out, split screens showing multiple things at once, montages to speed things up etc. The one time the projections annoyed me was when Pepa sings about being a mother, and we get a two-minute background projection of a fetus maturing inside a womb like YES I GET IT, she is singing about having a baby, although that is 100% on me and my pregnancy squick lol.

I liked the costumes in a general, unspecific way, nice but not the main focus in any way. They looked more 2010s retro than authentic 1980s to me (some I have seen the actors wear offstage I think so they might be private garments, like Simon Panna's floral skirt), with a focus on bright, poppy colours. I cannot for the life of me remember where I have seen Candela's yellow latex gown before, only that it looks like an off-color clone of the the red dress Petra wore in FAME so maybe they reused the pattern idk. The music, while loud as fuck, was good too, though tbh I was too busy mentally holding my ears to really pick up on much of it. Thankfully, Anna has sung Vénus a vénában on multiple occasions on camera, so I'll probably re-listen to it a few more times to decide whether I like it as a song (as a performance, it was deeply impressive).

Alright, onwards to individual performers:

PEPA - Fuck yeah, it's Peller Anna, what more do I have to say. She looks gorgeous on camera but fucking breathtaking in the flesh, she sings everything from low to high, from loud to quiet, and acts all the emotions from vulnerable to angry to hilariously funny. Her Pepa came across as a lot more bitter and cynical than what the synopsis had made me expect. She looks gr8 with red hair. She wears a satiny pink camisole for most of the first part of the show and it's probably cemented by shitloads of boob tape seeing as it stays in place regardless of what the shoulder straps are doing, but man is it distracting. Her jawline could probably cut glass. There is one imaginary daydream music number where Pepa appears in a short bathrobe and... there are other people on stage... but I could not tell you which. Her sarcastic baby voice and imitations of Iván are rib-bustingly funny. She threatens people with a huge kitchen knife at one point *___* The most interesting dynamic she had with anyone was, imo, Carlos - he is clearly scared shitless of her and she seems to want to dislike him on principle a lot, and she sure as hell isn't the motherly type, but there's... a certain level of tuff luv care she expends towards him, very grudgingly. At one point she tells him to call her Pepa because "we're nearly relatives!!", only to look like she immediately regrets having made that connection, haha. When she tries to squeeze Iván's whereabouts and travel plans out of him, I was 110% expecting aggressive boobs-to-the-face threats-disguised-as-flirting, seeing as he is awkward sexual frustration in human form, but apparently the "relatives" association stuck around and I don't think she made a single sexual advance at him for the entirety of the play (since they are the only characters whose age is actually canonically spelled out, maybe 22 years of age difference would have been considered a bit much, idk). Instead she physically crowded him against a piece of furniture and loomed threateningly at him until he folded and spilled the beans, which was probably my favourite moment of the show, no lie.

IVÁN - Szomor Győrgy is one smooth sonuvabitch, pretty blue eyes and sirupy voice and all. If Iván is supposed to be a sympathetic character however... then he failed. I don't think he's supposed to be though, I'm pretty sure he's intended to come across as a sleazy, unreliable, cheating, lying, scarily shallow scoundrel who literally thinks one woman's as good as the next because they're completely interchangeable. One scene that was apparently cut for this production was Carlos visiting his father in his flat and getting advice on how to treat women - it's a scene I did not miss at all, since I already wanted to punch Iván in the face every second he was on stage anyway. Plus, that way it didn't look like Carlos eventually managing to get laid had anything to do with his father's input, which would have made the whole thing gross instead of hilarious. Also this show about women really didn't need a scene with only two dudes talking to each other, and I'm glad to say that if there was a reverse Bechdel test (two men talking to each other about something other than women), I'm pretty sure this show does not pass it.

LUCIA - Goddammit but Kata is funny. I did not even need to understand much of her dialogue to be in stitches about her A+ physical comedy skills and mannerisms and facial expressions. I did not manage to understand enough to piece together her backstory beyond what the synopsis mentions, only that apparently Iván never officially divorced her and she is, at least at the start of the play, convinced that he will one day come home to her. I don't know how recently she was in psychiatric care, if it was before or after Carlos was born, how long she spent there and, if Carlos was already born, whether or not he was with her during that time. I gathered that unlike my initial assumption, she did not choose Marisa as her son's girlfriend and does not approve of her. She cuts a pretty ridiculously neurotic figure for most of the show, but her appeal to the judge as to why she wants to sue Iván for stealing twenty years of her life, all the while sabotaging herself by losing focus and trailing off into story after story, was pretty moving and sad. I uh, don't think shooting Iván was a good plan but I gotta say, I did understand why she'd want to do it, and I think she is the one character whose future I was actually worried about, since she's spent the last twenty years of her life living in the past.

CANDELA - MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER. Yes, I saw a show with Anna and Kata in it, and the one person who had 100% of my attention every moment she was on stage was Petra. I've been wanting to see her live for so long, and back when I watched the Tapsrend for this show I remember hoping with all my being to see her interacting with Dénes on stage one day, since they seem to be a killer combo. Dénes I did not see, but since Dániel was a somewhat paler presence, she stood out all the more. I love her voice and her shouting and her OTT comic acting and super expressive faces. This woman has legs the height of a regular person and possibly the best abs I have ever seen IRL, she does an exaggerated model catwalk stride at the drop of a hat and it's hilarious. Her intro song was a number where we get a montage of her spending at least 12 hours trying to reach Pepa on phone while going from mildly hysteric to desperate to maniacally bonkers and I spent the entire duration of it wheezing with laughter. She tries to get cuddles out of Pepa by sort of transforming into a gangly octopus and attaching herself to her back, and apparently Pepa knows that Candela will do anything for a chocolate cookie (to my great satisfaction, she does get two whole cookies at the end of the play, after many trials and tribulations. Also, to a German speaker the word "csoki keksz" in a sea of incomprehensible Hungarian is somehow deeply hilarious, or maybe that's just me). After her traumatic almost-fall out the window in Act I she turns up in a different outfit in Act II, claiming to have borrowed Pepa's dress, shoes, and ...??? I did not catch the word, but I'm 99% certain it was underpants, since her tactical exhibitionism later on shows her bra noticeably not matching her pants, and almost falling to one's death tends to have adverse effects on bladder control. Alas the crop top + shorts combo of her very first appearance did not show up again, but I will deal. She's just very... graceless? For a woman on stage, too loud and too gangly and too tactless, and I was charmed beyond description. For some reason she decided she wanted Carlos the moment she saw him, and her aggressively putting the moves on him was hilarious without, imo, drifting into creepy territory, both because he was clearly tempted from the moment he clapped eyes on her and because a lot of it was less her groping him and more her posing hilariously while batting her eyelashes and doing this huge cartoony cheshire cat grin and I was too busy snorting to detect any creepiness idk. UST with Carlos notwithstanding, her initial fight with Marisa seems to have been about Marisa insulting Pepa, which apparently is a big red berserk button that makes Candela go into FITE MODE in a span of .2 seconds. I loved the character a lot, and I'm so so happy I finally saw Petra, and hope to see her many more times.

PAULINA - I... don't really have a lot of opinions on her? She's described as an aggressive feminist, making the fact that she falls for Iván of all people and ends up crossing her female client for it extra ironic.

CARLOS - my first time seeing Dániel! He managed to make Carlos sympathetic without stealing anyone else's spotlight, to the point where I was vaguely curious to learn more about Carlos' backstory, but not in a way that I felt anything was lacking from the play. He seems like a more or less okay guy, painfully repressed and with a mountain of issues, but despite the fact that he seems close to a nervous breakdown of his own at times, this play is not about him. Dániel did a very good impression of a kicked puppy, or maybe a lost little duckling, but amidst the screaming kicking chaos that was all the other characters he became more of a prop than an active participant, especially since all his decisions seem to be motivated by others pushing and shoving him to do something. I'm... not sure how I feel about Dániel also playing the young flashback version of Iván, for some reason it made me slightly uncomfortable, maybe because I don't want Carlos to turn out anything like his father. EDIT: birb very rightly pointed out to me that Iván looking like Carlos makes a whole lot of sense if one considers that this is Lucia's flashback - to her, Carlos will always be reminiscent of his father, and one of the reasons she is so reluctant to let him move out isn't just her general fear of abandonment, but also her fear that in losing him, she will lose the last bit of Iván she still has left.

MARISA - Simon Panna turned a potentially one-note "frustrated bitchy girlfriend" character into a more minor, but nonetheless sympathetic character. She and Dániel worked great as an awkward couple who like each other but cannot communicate for shit. Since Lucia did not pick her as Carlos' girlfriend and Carlos is the most passive person in the play, I got the distinct impression that it was her who picked him, maybe with a misguided mission of turning the awkward virgin nerd into a proper man by way of bullying him into changing his ways and moving away from his mother's clutches. Marisa gets drugged into unconsciousness early during Act II and spends almost the entire rest of it as a comedic snoring prop, the implication being that she's having a sex dream and moving accordingly (personally, if the joke hadn't pointed it out, I wouldn't have interpreted her fidgeting as her humping the bed at all, but w/e). i was feeling slightly uncomfortable about her just being... pulled out of the story like that so that Carlos and Candela could get it on, but for the very last scene she wakes up while the other two are still passed out, and has a conversation with Pepa in which we learn that she is actually cool with Carlos sleeping with Candela (I didn't manage to understand whether that means she'll cancel the engagement now that he doesn't her changing him anymore or whether she wants to try staying together now that he finally isn't a virgin anymore, I only got that her dream was super fantastic and that she used the word "virgin" a lot haha), and that makes her (one of ?) the first major character to learn about Pepa's pregnancy. If that scene was added in as a trade-off for deleting the one with Carlos talking to Iván, it's a trade-off I wholeheartedly agree with.

TAXI DRIVER - Was that a great role for MÁZs or what?? He's great as the third-wall-breaking narrator, and him freezing the scene to fall out of his taxi driver persona and comment on the scene as a narrator was a good visual. He also... sort of... defies all laws of realism apparently, since he literally turns into a walking human telephone when Carlos and Candela need to make an anonymous call to the police. His taxi driver persona who loves mambo and is a fan of Pepa and tries to cheer her up by showing her a picture of a kitten so he doesn't have to cry along when she's sad was adorable. I also appreciated that he isn't mean to Marisa while she's drugged, he just pets her hair very gently before letting her snooze in peace, he's a lot nicer than, say, Lucheni. He also played the TV news anchor, in a terrible wig, it was great.

I'm skipping a variety of side characters to get to the two Police Inspectors/detectives who turn up in Pepa's flat to investigate an anonymous tip about a terrorist attack the police recieved. I was happy to see Petridisz Hrisztosz and Papadimitriou Athina in one play together but omg, turns out they decided that the detectives are Greek, so amidst the flood of Hungarian I was trying to parse, suddenly there was dialogue in Greek and it was funny simply because it came so unexpectedly. Most of it is later repeated in Hungarian so it doesn't really have any important plot points, but just for the record, here's a translation of the three lines I heard (I don't think there was something before that but I might be wrong, since I was so firmly focused on Hungarian it took me half a second to even understand why that first sentence didn't give me any trouble in understanding at all):
  1.  Hrisztosz: "[S/he] asked who plugged the phone out of the wall"  (probably translating something one of the other characters said to his colleague)
  2. Hrisztosz, after having correctly identified Pepa as the actress from the gazpacho commercial, cheers himself on with a football chant. Approximate translation: "Go Go Christakis! The whole country wants you!"
  3. Athina, as the Xanax is kicking in big time, to her colleague "Ask what's in the gazpacho...!"
Athina's character apparently wanted to be a "nép táncos" (folk dancer), but then it turned out that wherever she danced, there was no "nép", har har xD I also got the impression that both police detectives were supposed to be male? Athina was not wearing drag per se, just a black blazer and slacks to Hrisztosz' black suit, with heels and her hair in a bun, but they did a lot of comically mirrored body language stuff, and Pepa calls them both (ironically) "úraim", so *shrug*.

I was baffled by Young Lucia looking amazingly like Kata, not just in terms of features but also in demeanor, so I was actually a bit relieved when I looked up Pintér Janka and discovered that she is Kata's daughter and not some kind of Opi genetic experiment to rejuvenate their stars or something.


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