Thursday, November 13, 2014

6 Hotels Hub Theatre Company of Boston @ Club Café

Hub Theatre Company of Boston
@ Club Café
209 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA
Now Playing through November 22
6 Short Plays by Israel Horovitz
Directed by Daniel Bourque
and John Geoffrion

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

In his Talk Back with the audience following the performance of 6 Hotels, which is six short plays, playwright Israel Horovitz says that perhaps the scenario, “Beirut Rocks,” is too serious for  the set of plays presented.  Perhaps too, it is in many ways too political to be included among five other comedy pieces.

In the first play, “Speaking of Tushy” Horovitz presents a delicious appetizer of two guys who meet in a bar and begin talking about their ex-lovers.   Johnnie McQuarley, who sparkles throughout the six plays, is the center of this play along with Ashley Risteen.  Both are excellent and perform even better in the later presentations.  Supporting them are Matthew Zahnzinger, whose French accent could use some polish, but otherwise fits his part well and Lauren Elias, who along with her husband John Geoffrion founded Hub Theatre Company, works nicely as a waitress adding many lines to the comedy.

“Fiddleheads and Lovers” is another Horovitz comedy which revolves around food and two friends dating each other’s wives which result in humorous repercussions.  Since Horovitz’s six plays are meant to be performed by the same four actors, this one finds Risteen (Emma) and McQuarley (Noah) at dinner with Elias (Elsa) once again a waitress and Zahnzinger (Jerry), who is married to Emma, in his more natural American accent happening in on the scene and then his unseen date, who is Noah’s wife joining him. Not as confusing as it might seem, the awkward situation is humorous.

The third play, “Beirut Rocks” is Horovitz’s self-stated “serious play.”   True to his words there is no comedy in this one which finds four students in a hotel room in downtown Beirut during an Israeli air bombing which we can presume is during the war with Hezbollah.  There are problems with this cruelly flawed play. McQuarley as Benjy is Jewish.  Zahnzinger is Jake who is Irish and a Harvard student.  Elias as Sandy is an American student and Risteen (Nasa is an American Palestinian.   The first problem with the storyline is that there would probably be no Jewish students in Beirut studying Arabic at that time.  Second, Benjy tries to differentiate between Jews and Israelis.  Each time Nasa talks about Jews, Benjy asks, “ Jews or Israelis?” Nasa replies that there is no difference.   And in the final scene Nasa raises her arms to the heavens and prays for Palestinians to overcome Israelis.   For this Horovitz is not to be praised or criticized, but perhaps he should be given a few lessons in history.

In “The Audition Play” Risteen as Alexis is sensational.  She is supposed to have a Boston accent that the disembodied voice of the auditioner Ed (McQuarley) notes is more New York.  She plays the role expertly with comedic insight and at the same time tap dances that raises applause from an appreciative audience. This is Risteen’s opportunity to shine and she does.

The Hotel Play seemed a bit too familiar as if it had been done before.  Elias as Janice is the mistress of Aaron (Zahnzinger).  Aaron leaves quietly, leaving Janice alone.  Enter Chad (McQuarley), the room service boy,  who tries to comfort Janice as she reveals her affair and her intention to end it.  At that point Aaron reenters and the fun begins thanks to Horovitz ‘s comedic insights.

The final play is “2nd Violin” which Horovitz says he had always wondered what the second person feels like and also that he always wanted to finish a play with a bad ending for the character.   Elias perfectly portrays  Evvie, the second violin who just cannot get her piece right, but as in the other plays she provides an exuberant, bubbly personality and just the right touch of comic relief.  She is supported by Catherine (Risteen) who tries to help Evvie get her piece right. Marvin (McQuarley) the stage manager keeps entering the room resulting in Catherine and Evvie having  a discussion about whether Catherine had an affair with Marvin. Catherine points out  Marvin always enters a room when the female performer is in a state of undress.  Zahnzinger as Sergei the conductor has a Russian accent more French than Russian and has morphed himself over the period of six plays from a drinker at a bar to a tuxedo clad symphony conductor, each – except for the accents –  believable.

In Horovitz we observe a playwright who clearly finds the vulnerability, fears and anxiety of people in stressful situations.  He knows their faults, understands their weaknesses and expertly inserts  these traits into comedic theatre . He is a respected and well-liked writer who has done much to bring memorable entertainment to the stage.  Hub Theatre Company of Boston does an excellent job of interpreting his plays and bringing them to the live stage.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Author, Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8

Publisher, Muddy River Books

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