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'Hungarian Nights' Began in Budapest

Cheryl Kemeny's latest play has its roots in the volcanic ash that floated over Europe in April. Trapped in Budapest for an extra week by the disruption of air travel, Kemeny and her husband filled their time dreaming up a romantic mystery set in the country of her ancestors.

The result, "Hungarian Nights," is having its debut this weekend at The Ben Franklin Theater on Bayview Avenue . Kemeny describes it as a musical with operetta overtones, including Hungarian style czardas , waltzes and contemporary show music. For an authentic tone, it also features a 21-year-old Hungarian violinist, Jenö Varga.

"I said, 'Well if I'm going to write a Hungarian musical, I need to have the right kind of violinist," the Norwalk resident said. "I didn't know anybody here who could play in that style, so we went from restaurant to restaurant and we found this young fellow."

Kemeny, co-founder of the Crystal Theater , an independent, non-profit performing arts school, has written 35 plays. This one is different. "I didn't write it for students," she said. "I wrote it for professionals." Organizers are hoping to take the production to Budapest or New York. Kemeny is doing a reading for producers and potential backers Dec. 10 at the Dramatists Guild on Broadway.

Meanwhile, they are gauging the reaction. "Hungarian Nights" was performed last week with a cast comprised of her students and professional actor Mike Longo in the lead role of the Count. "We've made a lot of changes since last week," she said.

Kemeny is cagey about giving away plot details, but she did say there are gypsies and a vampire. "It's a big love story," she said. "The theme of the story is love, rebirth and redemption. It's interesting because I wrote it with my husband, and it's funny because men have a tendency to be more romantic than women do in real life. It's a very romantic story. Very romantic."

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