BWW Review: GRAND HOTEL at Barn Players

BWW Review: GRAND HOTEL at Barn PlayersIt was just a bit before the Great Depression when novelist Vicki Baum wrote Menschen im Hotel, with the stock market crash and the rise of National Socialism in the undreamed-of future. And yet, they cannot help but throw their shadows retroactively, as it were, on the setting and characters of her novel as it found its way from page, to stage, to Broadway. One finds oneself listening for the tells, the little bits of historical foreshadowing that cannot help but reveal themselves. One is, alas, not disappointed.

Grand Hotel is a "slice of life" story, witnessing the comings and goings of the guests and staff at the finest hotel in Berlin. As seen through the dispassionate eye of Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag (Graham Fairleigh), we meet dreamers and those for whom dreams have died. "Flaemmchen" (Ramsey Self) is a young typist with Hollywood stars in her eyes; Mdme Grushinkaya (Erica Baruth) an aging ballet dancer who feels time taking her dance away, and therefore her life. There is Zinnowitz (Christoph Cording), whose staunch business principles are put to the ultimate test, and Baron Felix Von Gaigern (Brian King) a high-living debt-ridden nobleman who is about to find out just how far he is willing to fall. Last but not least is Otto Kringelein (Daniel Wolhberg), an ailing bookkeeper determined to spend his last days in luxury.

Overall, the performances are very good. It must be said that the Barn has generally held performances that are noticeably above what is considered standard for community theatre. The use of a live orchestra as always enhances the experience, even if the sound mix did drown out the performers rather too often. Among the standout performers aside from the above-mentioned principals were Joy Richardson as Raffaela, a tragic character that doesn't always get the treatment the role merits, and Raheem Fielder-Bey and Mark McNeal as "The Two Jimmies", whose talent and charisma won the audience over immediately.

Someone once said the past is a foreign country. There is indeed an alienness to this setting -- never mind it's in Germany; it's the optimism of the time, the joie de vivre that jars. From our perch of ninety years, we can see it all stretching out in front of them. And yet they laugh, and dream, and dance into the night.

Grand Hotel runs at the Arts Asylum until May 5th.

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From This Author Kelly Luck

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