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A CurtainUp Review
As a guest, you become part of the cast and at the same time, you are the one-person audience. You don't have scripted lines to say, but when people speak to you, of course, you have to answer. You don't know where to go or who you're going to see, but you travel through a once lavish townhouse that boasts an elaborate circular staircase and richly carved paneling next to narrow halls and rooms in desperate disrepair.
Directly across from the entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Goethe-Institut is home to Performance Space 122's World Premiere of Hotel Savoy based on Joseph Roth's 1924 novel. Dominic Huber has used the novel to create a world mingling reality and unreality and the realms of past, present and future. What is fiction and what is fantasy? What is the time sequence? Is it 1924, or does the Billy Eckstine hit song on a radio indicate the 1940's. Then again it could be today, considering the microwave, television and push-button telephones. Time, like everything else, is a kaleidoscope ever-changing as you journey through the hotel, helping create your own fantasy.
Guests enter one-by-one. You get a lottery ticket. You have your photo taken. You will be told what to do, and you will usually be taken from place to place. Although maybe not. You may just get a telephone call with instructions, or someone may merely point the way down a set of narrow steps into a dark basement.
You can play this surreal game your own way and become your own fictional character. Or you can just answer the questions as they come, keeping in mind the many clues, some of which may not refer to anything. Everything centers on you and lighting and sound effects like a vacuum cleaner, doors locking behind you, society dance music from somewhere, all add to the drama taking any surprises away. You don't have to read Joseph Roth's book, but it helps to be open to the unexpected.
Everyone has a different experience at the Savoy so let me share with you some of my adventures. . .
I was taken to my room by an engaging host, who later came to tell me I had to change to another room. When I was sent to one tiny space the size of a prison cell, it was occupied by two very animated and inquisitive deaf women. Another room was ornate and white, with plastic hanging from the ceiling and pair of crutches in the corner. In a hotel workers' snack room, I was given a second lottery ticket by Howard, who said he wouldn't be needing it anymore. He asked about my work and complained about his boss whom he never sees. Things became a bit unsettling, even claustrophobic, but I was intrigued to find who and what would come next. A sincere young chambermaid, Heather, informed me that the past and the present are the same, and so is the future. But then again, maybe not, since Heather suddenly said it was time for her to leave, although she did not know where or why. I was left alone in a half-constructed room with a wet floor and water dripping into coffee cans. Things change, so like me you must just observe, wait and see. Someone will come and get you.
I met a congenial barmaid who asked about my life and told me she writes down all the stories of people she meets. On the wall I spotted a photo of a singer in a 1940's gown who resembled Heather, the chambermaid. When I asked who she was, the bartender replied "No one seems to know." I ended up with a hairdresser, who had my photo taped on his mirror. He decided, "Yes, your hair can use my help. I'm the best, you know!"
As Vallejo Gantner, the artistic director of Performance Space 122 comments "I think audiences want this because it flings the challenge of creating meaning and interpretation back on the audience members,". Hotel Savoy is challenging and provocative. You will emerge with a personalized experience, and that's a tantalizing value for your hour.
In case you're wondering, I never did get to my room. And while I heard my ticket had won the lottery, I never got a prize. That doesn't mean you won't.