Thursday, February 09, 2017

It’s not the Marx Brothers, but "Room Service" is still a fun farce

The cast of Room Service (Erik Stuhaug)
Room Service
Taproot Theatre
Through March 4, 2017

If you know who the Marx Brothers were, you might also know the movie they made called Room Service. It was based on a 1937 Broadway play and then they put their own improvisational, wacky spin on it.

Room Service is a farce. Taproot director Karen Lund is one of the best directors in town for farces in particular. She has a very clear sense of comic timing. Farce is not easy to get right. The main joy in farces is the quick movements of people coming in and going out of doors! That’s right, missing each other by parts of seconds! That is the height of silliness in farces. 

This production boasts three expert practitioners of farce here in Seattle: Bill Johns, Daniel Stoltenberg and Christopher Morson. In a talented cast, they lead the way in understanding and executing farcical behavior. Part of that is knowing how to be serious while not taking yourself seriously. They all get the best laughs in this show.

Our story finds theater impresario Gordon Miller (Erwin Galan) running up a huge debt in a hotel while he tries desperately to find a backer for his latest play. He has housed all 23 actors in the hotel, since he has no money to pay them and at least this way they can sleep decently and eat at his expense.

Miller’s brother-in-law, Joe Gribble (Mike Spee), is the hotel manager in trouble with his superior (Nikki Visel) who has aspirations for promotion if she shuts down the bleeding of the red ink on the hotel books. But Miller is on the verge of gaining a major backer if only Joe can keep her away for another day or two. Of course, Joe can’t do that, so the banging of doors and missing-by-inches begins.

It may be because the production is in early days, but the wacky rhythm isn’t quite as urgent as it needs to be. Hopefully the cast will settle in and speed up a bit so that the more breathless nature of farce will kick further in.

The entire play takes place in one bedroom suite in the hotel, belonging to Miller. There are some readily funny moments with small characters, including Stoltenberg’s role as the theater director who has been evicted from his own apartment and shows up in the hotel with a very large moosehead.

Morson plays the new playwright of the play Miller is producing and does a great job as a naïve young man new to the wiles of New York. In order to stay in the hotel, he is convinced he must play “sick” and we have great fun watching him keep an ice bag on his head.

The technical aspects of the play are well done with a four door set by Mark Lund and wonderful costumes by Nanette Acosta. Some of the actors have to change characters, so the costuming needs to be quick-change worthy.

It’s definitely a fun farce. It isn’t as wacky as you might remember the Marx Brothers to be, but it’s still a retreat from the outside world and a chance to relax and laugh. It’s also totally family friendly and likely understandable even by kids as young as about six. Go and have fun!

For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call 206-781-9707.