And so the season changes in Washington International School's performance of "She Loves Me" as errand boy Arpad Laszlo (Sivan Jacobovitz) points to a pocket of "snow" released from the ceiling.
The play's characters change nearly as abruptly, with time unfolding over several months seen in glimpses.
A lively and complex musical, "She Loves Me" is based on Miklos Laszlo's comedy "Parfumerie," a play adapted into two major Hollywood movies, "The Shop Around the Corner" and "You've Got Mail." The musical, which opened on Broadway in 1964 and reappeared 30 years later, follows the rocky romance of Budapest duo Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash. They have struck up an amorous, and anonymous, correspondence, addressing each other as "Dear Friend."
Then the two meet face to face. Amalia comes to work at Maraczek's Parfumerie, the beauty shop that Georg manages, and the two almost immediately develop an intense dislike for each other, not realizing, of course, that they are loving pen pals.
Disaster and laughter ensue in this clever, sweet musical that recalls the innocence and joy of being in love, even when it's not for the first time.
Capturing that innocence and nervousness are Will Havemann and Alyssa Fetini, who play Georg and Amalia. It is hard to make believable that love/hate, morbid-fascination chemistry so often a target of stereotype and parody, but Havemann and Fetini are successful.
They build a crucial tension and find a rhythm in their characters' interaction, a wavelength that just clicks. They are by turns awkward, sweet and helplessly confused by mutual attraction. Their success with that tricky tempo is what lifts the musical off the ground and lets it fly.
The talented cast supports Havemann and Fetini so ably that nearly every character threatens at one time or another to steal the show. None are more memorable than Torrey Danforth-Appell, who plays Mr. Maraczek, owner of the Parfumerie and Georg's boss.
The side plot, Maraczek's investigation of his unfaithful wife, relies entirely on Danforth-Appell's portrayal of the owner's internal torment and its effect on the other characters. The subtlety and attention to detail he bestows on his comparatively small role hints that Danforth-Appell is a performer with great potential.
As singers, the principal cast members sometimes let themselves be drowned out by the live orchestra, but they are also often highly charged and emotional. The best numbers include "I Resolve," sung with verve by woman-of-the-world Ilona Ritter (Ellie Famutimi), and "A Romantic Atmosphere," which features a hilarious and slightly frightening performance by Eric Schwartz, playing an obsessively stuffy, condescending waiter.
Washington International's performance of "She Loves Me" is wistful, hopeful and joyful. It celebrates love in all its uncomfortable stages, reminding the audience that love is a discovery, wondrous every time.
H-B Woodlawn High School