Room Service: Four Star Entertainment

By: Jul. 14, 2006
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Is "hilarious" funnier than "hysterical"? Is "riotous" funnier than "side-splitting"? Just use whatever superlatives you can think of and apply them to the Pecadillo Theatre Company's new production of John Murray and Allen Boretz's 1937 rib tickling show biz farce, Room Service. I dare you to find a funnier two hours in town than this gem of a production.

If you only know Room Service from the rather flat 1938 film adaptation, where the play was altered as an ill-fitting vehicle for The Marx Brothers, you may be surprised at what a crisp comedic whirlwind of wisecracks and door slamming this one provides, especially under the direction of the Peccadillo's artistic director, Dan Wackerman, who consistently excels at these sharp-witted period pieces.

Broadway producer Gordon Miller (David Edwards) seems to have everything set for his upcoming production of Godspeed. Everyone agrees that this epic drama penned by wide-eyed hick Leo Davis (Scott Evans) has hit written all over it and after seven weeks of rehearsal the cast is doing terrific work. The only problem is that there's no money. Having conned his brother-in-law (Dale Carman) into housing the entire company in the hotel he manages until a backer can be found, Miller's cast of 22 has been rehearsing in the ballroom and signing their meals over to a bill that's unlikely to be paid. When a new supervisor (Sterling Coyne) demands that all outstanding tabs be squared, Miller and Co. face eviction just when the representative for an anonymous millionaire (Raymond Thorne) offers to finance the play in exchange for a certain young lady being cast in a small role.

The inspired lunacy revolves around Miller, with the help of his director (Fred Berman) and assistant (Robert O'Gorman), finding ways to stall for time and keep the play afloat until the promised money comes in. Illness is faked, young love blossoms, lots of doors get slammed, a doctor gets tied up in the bathroom and our heroes attempt to put on as much clothing as humanly possible (don't ask).

Typically of Wackerman productions, the actors assume a distinct period style without ever slipping into caricature. Edwards is slick and crafty as the fast talking con man of a producer, with a voice and manner suggestive of Spencer Tracy. Berman and O'Gorman serve terrifically as his henchmen; the former an aggressive quick thinker and the latter an amiable lug accustomed to his boss' close shaves.

Carmen's nervous wreck of a hotel manager is a blast and Coyne hilariously blasts his irritation as his bellowing boss. Evans charms as the chipper young scribe quickly adapting to the realities of show business. Straight man Thorne is terrorized elegance trapped in the web of zaniness.

Chris Jones' hotel room set is appropriately standard and supplies sufficient doors to slam, while Gail Cooper-Hecht's costumes are perfectly period right down to the men's boxer shorts.,

Dan Wackerman's track record regarding Pecadillo productions moving uptown for extended runs has been rather good lately, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Room Service find it's way to a larger home for many months to come. This is four star entertainment.

Photos by Dick Larson: Top: David Edwards, Louis Michael Sacco, Scott Evans and Fred Berman
Bottom: Fred Berman, Dale Carman and Sterling Coyne


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