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Room Service

Dan Wackerman's adroit revival of this 1937 farce is a powerful antidote for depression.

By New York City
Sterling Coyne, David Edwards,and Scott Evans in Room Service(Photo © Dick Larson)
Sterling Coyne, David Edwards,
and Scott Evans in Room Service
(Photo © Dick Larson)
Slamming doors are supposedly damaging to soufflés, but there is a scintillating exception to that rule: the Pecadillo Theatre Company's revival of the 1937 John Murray-Allen Boretz farce Room Service. There are four doors on Chris Jones' Manhattan hotel-room set which are constantly being slammed by the frantic characters. Yet, when the slamming has ceased, director Dan Wackerman has baked a nearly perfect theatrical soufflé.

There is a formula for this type of showbiz comedy. The fast-talking New York City sophisticates are always madly chasing funds for some enterprise that's perilously close to going under. There's a rube wandering around with Broadway bulbs in his eyes -- eyes that, before long, are gazing into those of some nubile young lady. As the big-mouths eagerly surround the open mouth, wisecracks explode like popcorn in a microwave. Before all the complications are ironed out, the buffoons threatening opening night -- or whatever it is that's being readied -- have been slapped in the face with figurative cream pies. Additional goofballs burst through doors for fleeting bits of nonsense; the men often spend some of their stage time in underwear; and having money or being flat out of it is a humongous issue.

Here, producer Gordon Miller (David Edwards), director Harry Binion (Fred Berman), and obliging gofer Faker Englund (Robert O'Gorman) are searching for a backer so that a play titled Godspeed, by neophyte dramatist Leo Davis (Scott Evans), can see the footlights. Since these operators have put Miller's hotel manager brother-in-law Joe Gribble (Dale Carman) in a pickle with their mounting debt, they and the unseen 22-member cast billeted with them are in danger of being thrown out on their behinds. Their only hope is an anonymous angel whose representative, Simon Jenkins (Raymond Thorne), promises a $15,000 check -- but not in time to assuage Gribble's supervisor, the rampaging Gregory Wagner (Sterling Coyne). A couple of dames, namely Miller's gal friend Christine Marlowe (Kim Rachelle Harris) and sweet Hilda Manney (Blythe Gruda), also brighten the claustrophobic hotel landscape.

Nothing further needs to be said about the roller-coaster plot, because Miller's eventual success at overcoming all obstacles by hook or crook (mostly crook, or nearly) is a forgone conclusion. That Leo and Hilda will remain ga-ga-goo-goo is a certainty. Everything is clear except any proof that first-time author Davis has actually written something of quality. (A few first-nighters drop by to say that he has, but this reviewer harbors his doubts.) All that really matters is whether the frenzied narrative on which Boretz and Murray are hanging their jokes is genuinely guffaw-worthy and performed with the proper devil-may-care panache by a troupe of first, second, and third bananas.

No worries with the creative crowd gussied up in Gail Cooper-Hecht's period costumes. (Cooper-Hecht must have slid through a time-warp to locate the underwear.) The players have the genuinely loopy lines and breakneck pacing down. Edwards, Berman, and O'Gorman barely stops to catch their respective breaths; Carman is an hysterical (both senses of the word) Gribble; smoke seems to literally come out Coyne's ears; Thorne is a bemused Simon; and Louis Michael Sacco shines in two larger-than-life roles.

Wackerman previously proved his mastery of this period two years ago with his outstanding revival of Elmer Rice's Counsellor-at-Law. All that any ticket buyer looking for a good time needs to know is that with Room Service, Wackerman has done it again.


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