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Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
By Les Gutman
All audiences must now be informed that the play Paradise Hotel is not, in fact, the play Paradise Hotel but is in truth a much more disturbing and possibly illegal play entitled Hotel Fuck. For this we apologize.... ---Richard Foreman
Richard Foreman's latest and, for those who are counting, forty-sixth, production begins with the above announcement, which tells only half the story. There is another pretender attempting to take the stage at the Ontological Theater as well: it's called Hotel Beautiful Roses.
The play, of course, is not about either or any of these hotels really. They merely form the barely-confining structure of Foreman's meditation on sex, its meaning and function, and the variously conflicted ways in which most of us deal with such. It's a subject especially apt for Foreman's signature dream-tableau style, in which primary process thinking finds a rather direct path to the stage. Where better could one seek to understand sexual emotions?
Foreman himself describes this as perhaps his "most complex and delirious play to date". It is indeed chock full of issues, and the exposition could certainly be described as frantic. His stage is as strewn with people as his set is with largely unintegrated bric-a-brac; neither are of one mind. Here, upside down dining tables first simulate four-posters; later, the legs are removed to serve as weapons, sexual and otherwise. As is his wont, string abounds and a fourth wall of plexiglass shines images of the audience, sometimes blindingly lit, back at it.
Yet underneath the bedlam rests a solitary core of sturdy, insightful if cynical observations about the elusive nature of sexual memories and the way they interact with the search for fulfillment. "Your own memory is reading itself," one of the characters observes. But what is remembered is "having had [an] experience, but not what it felt like." What's at stake, Tony Turbo (Tony Torn) pleads, is "my possible happiness," an inchoate notion later dismissed: "nobody expects happiness at this late date".
In the sometimes-astonishingly brave cast of five characters, the males of the species vastly outnumber the lone female, Julia Jacobson (Juliana Francis). Consonnation in names is endemic in Foreman's world even if it belies any underlying consonant feeling: we also meet Tommy Tuttle (Tom Pearl), Ken Puss Puss (Jay Smith) and Giza Von Goldenheim (Gary Wilmes). These actors, several of whom worked together as a part of Reza Abdoh's Dar A Luz, are adept in the take-no-prisoners style of performance that makes Foreman's play both credible and entertaining. No movement, accent or degree of exposure is beyond their range.
Just as we thought we'd heard the last word on sexual mores, obsessive/compulsiveness and repression, in such a manner does Foreman weigh in that we must now wonder whether we've thought about it at all. And then we start to dream....