I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see The Hotel Nepenthe. The description in the program sounds bizarre; it sounds scary and pretentious and weird. But I have never been so happy to have spent my night at the theatre.
The Hotel Nepenthe is brilliant. Absolutely, positively, insanely (in all senses of the world) brilliant. John Kuntz is the cleverest theatre writer I’ve encountered in quite some time. His dialogue is sparkling, his structure inventive, his stories poignant and his characters palpable. He’s saying something but he’s never saying anything so clearly that it doesn’t merit hours and hours of analytic discussion. There were moments so tragic I almost cried. Then there were moments (lots of them) when I laughed so hard I literally cried- I’ve never done that at the theatre, ever.
The entire ensemble was phenomenal. All four of them played 3-5 characters each, every single one unique, not a single one a caricature. Daniel Berger-Jones was everything from a shy younger brother to a raunchy one-night stand to a stoic but paranoid bus driver, each one detailed down to facial twitches. Marianna Bassham shone as the funniest in the cast with insane comic timing. Her pitch-perfect Rent-a-Car Girl kicked off the show hilariously and her Senator’s Wife character quickly became an audience favourite. Georgia Lyman was a true chameleon, disappearing into roles as funny as anything and then tragic the next minute. Playwright John Kuntz highlighted the cast with 4 performances that were so phenomenal that all I can call them (apparently, aside from “phenomenal” is “great”). I say great because I’m simply running out of adjectives to explain how brilliant everyone in this cast was. You have to see them to believe them.
See I’ve gone and gotten myself into a pickle now. The direction was also brilliant, the lighting design perfection and the sound extroardinary, but I’m starting to feel like you might not believe me anymore. So I’ll say this- there was the occasional moment of over-the-top silliness, a broad touch here and there, a gimmick that gets played a little long. But that’s all. Do I have my credibility back? Good, okay, so you can believe me when I say this: IF YOU DO NOT SEE THE HOTEL NEPENTHE YOU WILL BE SORRY! It really is one of the best things I’ve seen at the theatre ever. It’s also an original play, so you can say you saw it before anyone else. I promise you won’t regret it. I give you free reign to scream at me in the comments section if you disagree, because that’s how much I want you see this show. Support original works, support small companies, but most importantly please just support awesome awesome theatre- see it!
The Hotel Nepenthe is playing until March 6th at the Storefront in Davis Square.
Visit www.actorsshakespeareproject.org for details.