‘L’Hotel’ has luxury elements, but falls short on depth
The premise couldn’t be more promising: Assemble six high-maintenance superstars from the past two centuries, put them in a room together and watch the fireworks explode.
That’s what playwright Ed Dixon and director Ted Pappas set out to do in “L’Hotel,” which is having its world premiere with Pittsburgh Public Theater.
And what a group of amusingly self-centered, opinionated and outspoken divas they are — novelist Victor Hugo, dance innovator Isadora Duncan, playwright Oscar Wilde, opera composer Gioachino Rossini, actress Sarah Bernhardt and rock star Jim Morrison.
They have all settled into a slightly past-its-prime hotel on the outskirts of Paris. Unable to leave, they pass their days feuding, trysting, trading witty quips and insults and harassing the single overworked waiter who serves them breakfast.
Scenic designer James Noone and lighting designer Kirk Bookman have given these cultural icons a truly opulent art nouveau setting in which they squabble and opine. an ornate, curving stairway is perfect for making grand entrances, and there’s plenty of room for them to take center stage. David C. Woolard has decked them out in detailed, elegant costumes that augment character and place them in their proper periods — from Bernhardt’s sumptuous ball gown to Morrison’s leather britches.
Promotional materials describe “L’Hotel” as a farce, and the action begins with the frantic waiter dashing about to prepare the dining room for his entitled charges.
A cast of first-rate actors does a superior job of providing specific details and delivery as they channel their characters. Sam Tsoutsouvas makes a pleasantly grumpy Hugo. Tony Triano’s slightly dim Rossini is an amusingly clueless foil for others’ jibes. Brent Harris’ Wilde is properly superior and glib. Daniel Hartley plays the oversexed, unruly Morrison with a properly relaxed flair. Kati Brazda’s Duncan and Deanne Lorette’s Bernhardt fit right in with their outspoken observations and fervor.
Evan Zes is unfailingly charming as The Waiter.
Having introduced us to these flamboyant, articulate characters and given them a terrific environment, where “L’Hotel” falls short is in giving them something meaningful to do.
The second half of the play takes a dark turn as the luminaries ponder serious philosophical questions about the power and meaning of art and artistic immortality.
What action there is revolves around a silly, highly implausible scheme that involves a young woman, played with proper fragility by Erica Cuenca. If successful, one guest may be able to leave the hotel. But there’s little question about who will get the exit pass.
Pappas and Dixon have been working on this script for a number of years. It’s already an amusing evening of theater with vivid characters and clever dialogue.
Now that they’ve had a chance to see what it looks like on stage, it’s time to take it to the next level.