A Review by Margie Doyle
Opening night of the farce “Hotbed Hotel” had the audience all but falling out of their new chairs as slamming doors, lost clothes, double-takes and clever timing prevailed — not to mention double-roles and mistaken identities.
In true repertory fashion, the cast took star turns throughout the production. Nate Feder had that endearing confused-tricky schizophrenia down as the hotel manager desperate to sell his hotel. He and his wife, played by Gillian Smith, decide to “pad” their guest roster by assigning rooms and roles to other staff; thus Gillian becomes a hoity-toity aristocrat, when she’s not scheming with her husband to pull off the sale.
Larry Coddington as Hopkins the janitor, clearly relishes his role as the clergyman behind the tipsy handyman — or is it the other way around?
Cara Russell, who stepped in at the last moment to cover for Vanessa Ryder who was ill, portrayed the cleaning lady/receptionist/maid and shone among the cast as she subtly (for a farce) kept character and delivered lines in whatever part she was playing.
Suzanne Gropper portrayed the lascivious dame on a repeat visit to the Hotbed Hotel to a fare-thee-well. The vignettes where she and John Mazzarella hauled each other in and out of the bedroom were visually hilarious.
And John Mazzarella — what a trouper! As the old, endlessly-reminiscing British army major, he was a whirling dervish of quick costume changes, alternating his “true” identity with that of a wealthy Arab sheik, in order to drive the price of the hotel up when the buyer comes to inspect the premises. Mazz sang, whistled and pranced around half-dressed (and double-dressed) to the audience’s delighted astonishment.
Tom Gosset portrayed Sam, the prospective buyer, and in this multi-personality play, that is his only, single-layered role. However, he’s brought along his doxie, played gleefully by Pat Ayers. Gossett’s timing and facial expressions were impeccable, showing bemusement, pomposity and cowardice when his battle-axe wife, played by Patty Monaco,finally appears on the scene.
Monaco is a fearless performer: she too angrily romps about the stage half-dressed, and her Bronx-inflected dialog matches her character perfectly. When she appears on the stage, in the latter second act, the stage is set for craziness to overtake the farce and the last guffaw comes just before the final gasp of surprise at the play’s end.
A production such as “Hotbed Hotel” with eight doors, nine major characters in 14 roles, costume dressings and undressings has got to demand a lot of energy both on- and off-stage. Director Doug Bechtel says, “I need to thank all the actors for all their hard work, particularly Suzanne Gropper who spent countless hours working with the actors to help them get their lines down pat.”
There is no doubt that the actors now enjoy the fruits of that hard work, and the audience on Opening Night fully embraced the opportunity to be silly, irreverent and “inappropriate.” The double-entendres may go over the heads of children, and they may enjoy the cartoonish-quality of mistaken identities, slamming doors and bed-hopping. Parental discretion is advised by the Actors Theater, however.
The play continues at the Orcas Grange this Saturday night, and the next two weekends: Feb. 22, 23 and March 1, 2, and 3, at 7:30 p.m. each night. Don’t miss it. It will do more for your mid-winter spirits than you could begin to expect.