Playwright Ed Dixon has assembled an A-list of personalities for his brand-new comedy, “L’Hotel.”
Six former celebrities with still-recognizable names such as playwright Oscar Wilde and rock star Jim Morrison have settled in as guests at a formerly grand but comfortable and elegant hotel in Paris.
With unlimited time, these once-revered idols fill their idle hours by squabbling and bantering among themselves and terrorizing the staff.
Unwilling or unable to leave, their tedium is relieved when Sarah Bernhardt finds a Ouija board in a closet that may help them find a way to check out.
“I wanted to show what really famous, really big people are like when they are not onstage,” Dixon says.
Pittsburgh Public Theater is giving “L’Hotel” a world-premiere production through Dec. 14 at the O’Reilly Theater, Downtown.
In creating “L’Hotel,” Dixon organized his first drafts in the style of George Kaufman and Moss Hart’s plays such as “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”
“It’s not a farce but a carefully set- up comedy in the form of a three-act play,” Dixon says.
While filled with witty quips and humorous moments, “L’Hotel” also poses some interesting questions, Dixon says: “What is celebrity, what are real contributions, real values: Who is important? … It’s not just about jokes. There is something I want people to get in the end. It will make you think about art in a different way.”
He chose his main characters from a list of 50 very different but famous people who had something in common that becomes apparent as you watch the play.
“I looked through the list for (people) I had a relationship in my mental landscape,” Dixon says. “There are certain people who create their own world. They stand alone.”
He then narrowed the list to six — Wilde, Victor Hugo, Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, Gioachino Rossini and Morrison.
Others, such as Edith Piaf, didn’t make the cut, even though they were equally famous.
“I admire her. But I don’t have an internal relationship to her,” Dixon, who also is an actor, says.
After playing 1,700 Broadway performances as Monsieur Thenardier in “Les Miserables,” Dixon felt he had to include Hugo, who wrote the novel upon which the musical is based.
Others, he chose for specific attributes, such as Bernhardt for her colorfulness and Rossini for his appearance. “He just looks so funny,” Dixon says.
“I wasn’t interested in telling people’s biographies. I picked them as icons for certain ideas. I was looking to represent different areas of art,” Dixon says.
Dixon says Pittsburgh Public Theater producing artistic director Ted Pappas, who also is directing the production, compares the comedy to a dinner party: “Ted said he wants to … tell people this is that dinner party you have always wanted to be invited to.”
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.
The six celebrity artists at “L’Hotel” in Paris are a who’s who of 19th- and 20th-century artists:
Here’s some details to get you up to speed. In deference to their egos, they are listed in alphabetical order:
• Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), internationally acclaimed French actress who performed as Tosca, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Salome and as the title character in a four-hour production of “Hamlet.”
• Isadora Duncan (1877-1927), American dancer who brought freedom of movement to her performances and is often credited as the mother of modern dance.
• Victor Hugo (1802-85), French poet, playwright, politician and novelist who wrote “Les Miserables” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
• Jim Morrison (1943-71), American songwriter, poet and lead singer for the counterculture band The Doors, he often incorporated the ideas and words of Friedrich Nietzsche, William Blake and Jack Kerouac into his songs.
• Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), Italian composer who wrote 39 operas including “The Barber of Seville,” “La Cenerentola” and “William Tell.”
• Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), British playwright and novelist whose works include the comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest” and novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”