Downtown Art

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May 9, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

Sweet smell of love

"She Loves Me" brings us back to a more polite era where business transactions are bundled with niceties, (just like a ribbon-bound box of perfume). Despite the careful attention to such details that the employees in this musical take with their packaging of fine fragrances, two of them at least don't seem so simpatico at first. Meet Georg and Amalia, a couple of disputing clerks in a 1934 Budapest parfumerie (or perfume shop).

While they're frustrated with work problems and the mere glimpse of each other, they share some common ground. Both secretly daydream about their nearly imaginary lovers - or romantic pen pals. In fact, their crushes are so confined to their letters that when asked the name of her sweetie at one point, Amalia can't recall (how do you forget the name of the man you're in love with?). Turns out, however, that the object of her affection isn't so far away. To Georg's chagrin, who realizes it early on, his and her romantic interests coincide with their respective antagonists.

The give and take of the show, scene by scene, does mock the rhythm of the daisy chain-like dictum she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not As the smell of petals creates a potent ambiance. If the plot sounds familiar it's probably because this comic musical inspired the later movies "The Shop Around the Corner," "In the Good Old Summertime" and "You've Got Mail."

Now compare the play's numbers like "Tonight at Eight," "Vanilla Ice Cream" and "She Loves Me," with how it might translate in more abbreviated chat room speak today: "See u @ 8 p.m.," "Happy Hour" and "Luv u 2."

Despite the language changes though, this musical underscores that whether through snail mail, e-mail or some other correspondence, sometimes connections can be made in print even among skeptics or temporary enemies.

Tu-Su thru June 12; Tu-Sa 7:30 p.m., Su 7 p.m. Guthrie Theater, 725 Vineland Pl. $19-$54. 377-2224,

'King of Hearts'

"King of Hearts" creatively mines the effects of wartime with an absurd musical tale about the last days of World War I. It centers on the off-kilter inhabitants of a small French village.

But what are they doing there? The town is mostly evacuated. They should've, too, since nearby bombs are ticking. But these smiling residents seem totally oblivious to the war or at least prematurely gleeful about its imminent demise.

Unlike the other village occupants, these forgotten folks were released from their former housing in the nearby "insane asylum." They don't even know that everyone else is gone. These "freed" inmates wait for and eventually crown an imaginary "king of hearts" (a title based on a random face card plucked out from a pack).

When an American soldier discovers the townspeople, he notices the desperate and nave look in their eyes coupled with the oddity of some of their actions - but it takes him awhile to figure things out. He sympathizes with the lot and even finds himself romantically drawn to one of the women. But she proves all too sincerely innocent and finally it dawns on him - everyone has quite literally gone mad.

So the "king of hearts" humors them. He accepts the crown and robe that they give him. Never mind that their king is a soldier and an American.

But when he attempts to escort them out of the war's path they refuse to leave. After all, this is their comfort zone and their home. Either they're afraid of the unknown or they've made their peace with the oncoming violence. In both cases, there's an unexpected wisdom in their craziness.

This witty melodrama is a joint effort by Theater Latte Da and the Interact Center.

Th-Su thru May 22; Th-Sa 8 p.m.,Su 2 p.m. (plus M May 9, 7:30 p.m.) Loring Playhouse, 1614 Harmon Pl. $15-$25. 343-3390,