Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fondly, Collette Richland *

The first thing you should know about this collaboration between Elevator Repair Service  (Gatz, The Select, Arguendo and The Sound and the Fury) and playwright Sibyl Kempson is that at least one-fourth of the audience did not return after intermission. If coherence and intelligibility are among your requirements for a theatrical experience, this new play at New York Theatre Workshop is definitely not for you. It has plenty of interesting characters, a clever set by David Zinn, Inspired costumes by Jacob A. Climer and Zinn and an intricate sound design by Ben Williams, assisted by Gavin Price. Unfortunately these strong points are overwhelmed by the lack of a discernible narrative arc and an unfortunate tendency to pile on the surreal and the ridiculous beyond what the play can bear. The plot, to the extent that one exists, involves a middle age couple Fritz (Vin Knight) and Mabrel (Laurena Allan) FItzhubert whose supper is interrupted by the arrival of Local Representative Wheatsun (Greig Sergeant). They show him a tiny door within the house that eventually leads them to a Grand Hotel in the Alps populated by a motley array of guests and staff. Once there, things grow increasingly incomprehensible. Nativism and ancient Rome are somehow involved. The terrific cast seem to be having a wonderful time. Notable are Mike Iveson as a priest who narrates the first part of the play while playing the piano and later plays a hotel waiter, April Matthis as the title character (a radio show host) and Fritz’s sister Dora, and Susie Sokol as a Cat Butler (really!) and the hotel’s milkmaid. I will confess that I had several chuckles along the way, but became restless during the second act when the fun became increasingly labored. ERS founder John Collins directed. Perhaps ERS should rethink the idea of working with playwrights. They did far better when they started with an existing text. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes including intermission.

1 comment:

Bob Stachel said...

Pretty much agree with every line of this post. I'd add that, in 2015, you'd better have a darn good reason to reuse labored, once avant-garde devices like having characters on stage complaining they don't understand the play or tossing out of the theatre protesting "audience members".