BWW Reviews: Group Rep Makes Another Valiant Effort with HOTEL PARADISO

Hotel Paradiso/by Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres/English translation by Peter Glenville/directed by Drina Durazo/Group rep/through August 11

Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres wrote the French farce Hotel Paradiso in 1894 to be enjoyed by a French audience. Any translation of it should keep the culture and manners of the people intact as their risque behavior is representative of the Parisian upper class of the time. In Group rep's new production, updated to 1920s Paris, director Drina Durazo has sadly forgotten about the French element, so instead of a rich crepe, what we get is a pancake. She has her actors wonderfully performing the mechanics of farce, but unfortunately, the flavor is American, all the way. But, it's a bold effort for Group rep, and many of the actors do superb work, through August 11.

Looked upon as somewhat surrealistic, the play ventures into the world pf poltergeists in Act II, perhaps to give the characters immediate excuses, fabrications for their improper actions. But its theme of mistaken identity and the complications that follow are primarily at play - which pretty much govern a farce - with an extramarital affair at the core of the plot.When Cot (Mark Atha) and his wife Marcelle (Gina Yates) argue about his unresponsiveness in their marriage, Boniface (Van Boudreaux) seizes the opportunity to have an affair with Marcelle. His dictatorial wife Angelique (Suzy London) behaves pretty badly toward him and everyone else, and despite her honesty, is enough to drive any man away. In the Boniface household also resides nephew Maxime (Andrew Bourgeois), a learned scholar, who is deliciously seduced by perky, sexy maid Victoire (Leah Shaw). When friend Martin (Doug Haverty) - who breaks into a stuttering frenzy every time it rains - visits with his three perfectly angelic daughters, the chaos begins to ensue.

Boniface takes advantage of his wife's departure to visit her sister to plan a secretive soujourn at a sleazy hotel with Marcelle. As Act II switches to the Hotel Paradiso, not only do Boniface and Marcelle show up, but Marcelle's husband Cot, Martin and the daughters, since their presence was too much for the Boniface household to bear, and Maxime,with Victoire in tow for a raucous tryst. It's more chaos, and it is not until Act III that a happy resolution occurs, acquitting Boniface and Marcelle of their infidelity, with Angelique and Cot being suspected and summoned by the Inspector of Police (Chris Winfield). It's all the silliness expected with mistaken identity, but some scenes are too prolonged with comedy doing just that...going too exasperatingly far.

Before I start praising the ensemble, let me say that if Durazo had insisted on a French accent from every one of her actors, the piece would be funnier and work to lift more optimally what is written on the page. As is, without a taste of the real francais, the raw, gamey sense of humor in lines like "He must breed like a rabbit!", gets totally lost.

On the plus side, Durazo's pacing is right on target, and the actors, even without the accents...sublime! London and Boudreaux are a perfect fit to their roles; he, like a little boy with an impish grin - no matter how bad he gets, we cannot help but love him; she, strong and suffocatingly overpowering, but with weepy, cunning femininity peering through when she is put upon by adversity. Terrific performances! Haverty is sheer delight as Martin, skillfully sustaining a diliriously annoying stutter. Yates and Atha are fun to watch in what turns out to be a ridiculous unconsummated affair, and the three girls playing Martin's daughters are wonderfully in unison, whether disgustingly polite or screaming in horror. (Sarah Ritter, Alexa Giraudon, Mia Giraudon). Also worthy of note are Robert Gallo as Anniello the shady hotel owner and Chris Winfield, almost unrecognizable in a variety of small roles.

The production design by Winfield and Durazo serves quite effectively as do Emily Doyle's costumes, especially Angelique's stunning outfit in Act III.

This is not Group rep's best effort this season, but certainly has its fun moments. Once again bravo to the company for their wonderful comedic timing and splendid endeavor with a work of such - light yet difficult proportions!

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From This Author Don Grigware

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