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House of Gabor

Tony Finstrom’s new play entitled House of Gabor premiered October 30, 2017 as part of the ‘Jan McArt New Play Readings’ series at Boca Raton’s Lynn University, where Producer McArt continues to develop new work by South Florida playwrights.

“I set out to write something about the Gabors, as they’ve long fascinated me and I have a lot of books about them that I’ve only really glanced at superficially in the past. So it was now my pleasure to do some real research,” explains Finstrom. “And I quickly found the right time and place where they were all together on a stage. This only happened once, in Las Vegas over the Christmas holidays in 1953, where they performed a kind of ‘sister act’ for a huge amount of money.

“But the funny thing was, the more I read about them, the more I found myself falling for Zsa Zsa,’ Finstrom says. “So it’s really become her show; a kind of funny-sad love story that was playing out over that 1953 Christmas holiday in Vegas, as her well-publicized affair with notorious international playboy Porfirio Rubirosa came to an end during a time when she was still married to movie star George Sanders.

The one-act play is set in December of 1953, in the Gabor’s suite in the Last Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. For the one night only production, the set itself is a couch and tables center stage, where the majority of the action takes place; and a chair stage right where sits our narrator of sorts, Jeffrey Bruce as George Sands. Bruce fits comfortably into the skin of the famous George Sands as he sets up the story of the show at it’s beginning. The ever-elegant Jan McArt is wonderful as Zsa Zsa’s mother, Jolie Gabor. There is a certain humor to her portrayal of Jolie as she jockeys for position to find funding fo a new jewelry business, and to join her daughters in their New Year’s Eve act. Though we are able to catch all of her lines, she is unfortunately plagued by microphone issues, and had to do most of the show using a hand haeld microphone.

Alvarez is smooth enough in his portrayal of Rubirosa, but missing the suave polish and magnetism that earned Rubirosa his deserved reputation as the ultimate jet-set playboy and womanizer. Michael McKeever is funny as the earnest and befuddled PR man, Patrick Finley. Mia Matthews is wonderful as Zsa Zsa,Gabor. Visually she matches her beauty and style. But impressively, she also captures her speech pattern, vocal tone, and mannerisms.

The script seems like it spends a great deal of time setting up the events at hand, and is in need of a clearer arc to take us on a journey that really goes somewhere. It is saved by the performance of Mia Matthews as Zsa Zsa, and the writing of her monologue meant to be a rehearsal of her New Years’ Eve act performance. In the hands of a less capable actress the production as a whole would have fallen flat. The script itself needs a bit of tweaking, and the subject matter is definitely one worth examining, and the playwrights’ love of the Gabors shines through.

McArt, often referred to as the First Lady of Florida Theatre, runs this award-winning play reading series at Lynn, where playwrights get the chance to bring a new play to life, working with a cast and a director for five days – rehearsing, re-writing, rehearsing, rewriting. Then, at the end of those five days, their new, polished, reworked play is presented to the public in performance, fully staged, with actors up on their feet, scripts in hand, employing minimal costumes, sets, lighting and sound, to aid them in the presentation of the new work.

The 2017-18 season for Jan McArt’s New Play Readings Series at Lynn University also includes:

January 22, 2018: STARMAKER
By Michael Leeds
Directed by Andy Rogow
The true story of Hollywood super-agent Henry Willson and his relationship with his super-client Rock Hudson, as told by Henry himself, accompanied by a Greek chorus of his other famous clients. Written and directed by the co-artistic directors of Fort Lauderdale’s award-winning Island City Stage. Featuring Dominic Servidio, Mallory Newbrough, Clay Cartland, Larry Buzzeo, Jordan Armstrong and Sean Davis.

February 12, 2018: WIDOW ON THE LOOSE
By Jay Stuart
Directed by Michael McKeever
Is it acceptable for a married woman to make love to a preacher, a car salesman and a mysterious hotel guest who keeps changing his identity? And, if a bellman has an affair with a guest, is it reasonable to still expect a tip? Featuring Jan McArt and a cast TBA.

March 12, 2018: A HOME
By Dan Clancy
Directed by John Tolley
The story of the Reddington family – father, mother, daughter, son – tracing the family’s history over a period of sixty years. Although the action takes place in the family’s Brooklyn brownstone, their story will resonate with your own. From the author of MIDDLETOWN. Featuring a cast TBA.

Performances are scheduled to take place at the Keith C. & Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center of Lynn University in Boca Raton. For tickets to Jan McArt’s New Play Readings series call 561-237-9000, or go to for more information.

Porfirio Rubirosa: Alex Alvarez*
George Sanders: Jeffrey Bruce
Zsa Zsa Gabor: Mia Matthews*
Patrick Finkey: Michale McKeever
Jolie Gabor: Jan McArt*

Director: Wayne Rudisill
Stage Manager: Alan Saban

*Indicates a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.