KURT KASZNAR ON STAGE
I promised you a story about seeing Mr. Kurt Kasznar onstage. The time was the mid 70's and the play was "Don Juan in Hell" by George Bernard Shaw. It was being produced in a very old, renovated theatre in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The play featured only four actors, all of them seated on tall stools near the front of the stage. They would deliver their lines standing or sitting, depending on the theatrical needs of the material. The cast also included Edward Mulhare, Ricardo Montalban and Myrna Loy. It was a very heady group to see onstage. The performances were stellar. Mr. Montalban with his magnificent rolling Latin accent and dominating masculine presence portrayed Don Juan. Mr. Mulhare brought his incisive, elegant British presence into full play as a chilling Satan. Ms. Loy was the epitome of cool grace with her physical and inner radiance. Mr. Kasznar looked every inch a decadent nobleman, and allowed his character to rumble and roar with his resonant, accented voice.
The theatre was not large, and the audience was engrossed in the swift wordplay between the characters, this being broken into segments by each character's soliloquies. The theatre, being fairly old had originally been built out of the mainstream of town life. Time had encroached on it's territory and the theatre is now fairly well surrounded by highly trafficked roads.
As Ms. Loy stood to begin a soliloquy, she opened her mouth to speak just as a fire siren blasted it's way through the house as a fire truck on the outside highway rushed to a disaster. This took some time for all the ruckus to pass and Ms. Loy stilled her performance to let the noise pass. When it did, she began again and another fire truck brigade ripped through the quiet of the auditorium (it sounded like they were driving down the center aisle!). Ms. Loy again fell silent and composed herself to let the noise pass. The three gentlemen were seated and remained as still as the stones on Easter Island. For the third time, Ms. Loy stood and began to speak and again . . .the fire trucks began anew! By this time the situation had become ludicrous and a small amount of giggling took place in the audience. Ms. Loy silenced the offending parties with an ice cold stare. However she could not contain the infectiousness of the giggling that had taken a hold of Mr. Kasznar, Mr. Mulhare and Mr. Montalban. Mr. Mulhare started to snort, and having Satan get the giggles was simply to much for Mr. Kasznar and he began a hearty chuckle, which then got to Mr. Montalban who tried his best but he could not contain his mirth. Eventually the entire theatre, with the exception of Ms. Loy was laughing together. When all had subsided, Ms. Loy gave the gentlemen actors a withering gaze and began her soliloquy. With remarkable timing the last brigade of fire trucks let out a mighty blast right outside the theater door near the actors at the very same time. The place fell into controlled bedlam and by now the three gentlemen actors were sliding off their seats and pounding each other on the backs like rowdy boys in a schoolyard.
Eventually, an intermission was called early and when all returned to their seats and places the play continued uninterrupted. Ms. Loy was clearly annoyed with the three other actors and they all had an impish glint of barely controlled glee in their faces because of her obvious annoyance with them. The gentlemen continued excellently but were unable to look at each other for even a moment during the rest of the performance. I later found out from a close friend who had booked the play that Ms. Loy was quite difficult to work with at all times and very standoffish to her cast mates throughout the tour. The gentlemen, however, enjoyed each other's company, often relaxing together and hunting down a decent place to relax and imbibe after a show.
Bonita Kinsinger, USA