Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hub Theatre Company of Boston Celebrates Its Second Birthday With "6 Hotels" by Israel Horovitz - Horovitz Attending The Party Was Icing On The Cake!

With each production I have seen that has been presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston, I have noticed the level of professionalism being ratcheted up a notch.  They are a company worth paying attention to. Certainly prolific playwright Israel Horovitz is paying attention, for he graced their birthday celebration on Saturday evening with his presence at a Q&A following the performance of his play "6 Hotels."  Last season Hub had presented Horovitz's play "Lebensraum."  It is a fortuitous pairing.  Let's hope that Hub continues to present Boston audiences with more treasures from Horovitz's oeuvre.

"6 Hotels" is a compilation of six short plays, all set in some fashion in a hotel room.  Daniel Bourque and John Geoffrion shared directing duties, each one directing three of the short pieces. The common theme seems to be an exploration through comedy, farce and drama of how we as human beings connect or miss connecting with one another in the face of life's challenges and crises.  Four actors played multiple parts and each appeared in at least five of the plays.  The opening play, "Speaking of Tushy," was by far my favorite.  I laughed uproariously at the cleverness of the dialogue and banter as two men shared stories of love life gone wrong.  Johnnie McQuarley as Stanley and Matthew Zahnzinger as Jean-Philippe shared bottles of Stella Artois as they recounted their encounters with Stella and Veronica.  This play used the space at Club Cafe beautifully.  The two male actors sat on stools in front of an actual bar, while their memories of their times with Stella (Ashley Risteen) and Veronica (Lauren Elias) were enacted on a stage set to resemble a nicely appointed hotel room, The set was designed by Marc Ewart.

Matthew Zahnzinger as Jean-Philippe
Johnnie McQuarley as Stanley
"Speaking of Tushy"
"6 Hotels"
Israel Horovitz
Hub Theatre Company of Boston

This play is very well written, riding the "Street Car" of the concept of "Stella" and "Stanley" down some expected and unexpected tracks.

"Fiddleheads and Lovers," is a play set in an upscale restaurant.  This play provides Lauren Elias with her finest moments on stage, portraying a waitress who is a passionate foodie, who once had to support her waitress habit by taking part-time acting jobs!  The irony is rich and luscious.  Her detailed and breathy description of each item on the menu is almost pornographic in its sensuousness.

"Beirut Rocks" is the most political, serious and jarring of the short plays.  It depicts students taking shelter in a hotel in Beirut as the city comes under attack from Israeli bombs, missiles and mortars. One of the students is a Palestinian woman, played magnificently by Ashley Risteen.  Horovitz revealed during the Q&A session that this play was inspired by real events in 2006 that involved a student who was his son's roommate at Harvard.  The play is well written and very intense and moving, but did not seem to fit with the other five plays except for sharing the hotel theme.  The excellent work of lighting designer Michael Clark Wonson, sound and music designer Andrew Paul Jackson and costume designer Sara Tess Neuman were shown to great effect in this piece.

"The Audition Play" gave Ms. Risteen another opportunity to demonstrate her emotional range.  She portrays a struggling actress trying to get a break.  Her rant and plea aimed at Ed, played by Mr. McQuarley, was one of the highlights of the evening.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the one moment of disappointment in what was otherwise a very satisfying evening at the theater.  The final play, "2nd Violin," is the weakest of the six pieces. The writing and staging are not particularly interesting.  The play involves a second chair violinist suddenly thrust at the last moment into a soloist role.  The real problem with this piece is that much of it involves Ms. Elias on violin and Ms. Risteen on cello miming the playing of their instruments while the audience listens to the gorgeous music of Richard Strauss' tone poem "Ein Heldenleben."  The problem is that neither actor demonstrated the least bit of proficiency with their instrument. Bowing, fingering, lack of vibrato were all badly out of synch with the recorded music, to the point where it became both a distraction and an embarrassment.  At that point, an evening of theater that had maintained a professional level throughout suddenly devolved into what felt like bad community theater.  This cannot stand.  The director, in this case, John Geoffrion, should have either used actors who are also musicians, demanded deeper preparation from his two actors for this important aspect of their roles or cut the piece.

If Hub Theater Company of Boston can address the kind of weakness I just highlighted, their future is bright.  They are a company worth supporting, and this is a production worth seeing.  It will play at Club Cafe on Columbus Avenue through November 22.

Hub Theatre Website



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