HOTEL PARADISE theatre review

Jacksonville’s DASOTA presented its final mainstage production of the 2010/2011 school year on May 5, 6, and 7.
Paradise Hotel is a translation into English of the French farce L’Hotel du Libre Echange by George Feydeau. This 1894 play was translated by Nicholas Rudall in 1990. Dual Critics were excited about seeing this production since Feydeau’s well-known masterpiece farce, A Flea in Her Ear, has been one of our favorites. Feydeau’s farces remain funny, because they hinge on misadventures and slapstick in the pursuit of misguided amours.
Hotel Paradise is a disreputable hotel, a lover’s secret rendezvous, with rooms available for rent by the hour and at group rates; patrons are never asked questions.
Mr. Benoit Pinglet (Tyler Ramirez) goes to the hotel to avoid his domineering wife Angelique (Kellie Wyatt) and spend the night with Marcelle (Olivia Branstetter), the beautiful wife of his neighbor Henri Paillardin (Kai Dailey). Henri arrives at the same hotel, alone on business, complicating matters.
The Pinglets’ seductive maid Victoire (Sha’Lorance-Ashby) has designs on the young and handsome but bookish philosophy student Maxime (Devin Reardon), and they arrive together at this seedy but very busy hotel. Mathieu (Philip Harville IV), a friend of the family visiting from out of town, checks into the hotel with his four playful, giggling adolescent daughters.
The owner of the hotel, Bastien (Mason Platock), spies on the assignations of his guests by drilling peep holes in the walls. The hotel porter Boulot (Pablo Milla) develops the sudden hots for Marcelle and attempts to seduce her.
Well, you pretty much get the idea that this is a sex farce and it predates modern examples like No Sex Please, We’re British and Lend Me A Tenor. Like all plays of this genre, there is a lot of planning and plotting and talking but nothing ever happens that is at all intimate as lust is dampened down by frustration.
Director Michael J. Higgins had assembled an outstanding cast, thoroughly rehearsed them so that they had the incredible timing necessary for good farce, and then apparently turned them loose and said have fun. They did and the audience did as well.
Most farces of this type tend to start quietly and build slowly, but under the direction of Higgins, this play was in high gear within five minutes and the audience was in for a wild ride for the next two hours. The entire cast performed at a high energy level throughout, using both vocal and physical comedy as they pursued each other, eluded pursuit, slammed doors, and took pratfalls.
All the roles were distinctive and well-developed with Tyler Ramirez as Mr. Pinglet the instigator of all the happenings as the leading man. At times he reminded us of Groucho Marx, at times Chaplin and other comics we have seen over the years.
We recall seeing two of the actors recently on community theatre stages. Christy Mull has appeared in various musicals at Players By the Sea and Theatre Jacksonville, while Pablo Milla was in the highly acclaimed Theatre Jacksonville production of Rabbit Hole, in the major supporting role of the teenager who accidently killed a young child in an automobile accident.
The set was certainly a star of this production as well. Scenic Designer Noland O’Dell, Scenic Artist Susan Peters, Technical Director Terry Monday, and Lighting Designer Cameron Parker created wonderful visuals. The interior of the Benoit’s home comes with restrained purple walls filled with artwork. In contrast, the hotel rooms and lobby are in bold yellow, blue, and red with black Art Nouveau motifs. And both sets have multiple levels, doors and windows, to support all the entrances and exits.

Sally Pettigrew was the Costume Designer, and outfitted the cast in the elegant clothes of the time, including a brocade dressing gown for Benoit, and, for the ladies, gowns with fitted bodices with long sleeves, gently flared skirts, and bustles.
Also in this inspired cast were: Paige Granfield (Violet, Mathieu’s daughter), Adrienne Feinglass (Magarite, Mathieu’s daughter), Jessica Jacobson (Paquierette, Mathieu’s daughter), Christy Mull (Pervenche, Mathieu’s daughter), Paris Pringle (Antoinette), Harrison Breault (Ernest), Tre’Ellis Scott (Chervet, Inspector Boucard), and Riley Hillyer (policeman).
Kudos to all the DA students who did much of the behind the scenes work in the Deck, Prop, Light, Costume and Paint crews.
This has been a fantastic finish to what has been a great year of productions at Douglas Anderson and we are looking forward to the 2011-2012 school year and more exceptional theatre.