Thunder cracks and a woman enters a seemingly abandoned hotel lobby decorated with old pictures and dusty furniture. She is carrying two suitcases and stops to survey the place. After taking a deep breath, she drops her suitcases, walks to the lobby desk and pulls a small lamp's cord. She picks up a gold phone and gives a room number. As the hotel concierge, she has all the answers — all except who she really is.
Presented by the St. Francisville Transitory Theatre at The Elm Theatre, La Concierge Solitaire is a fast-paced comedy with dark undertones. The show debuted at the 2011 New Orleans Fringe Festival, and this revamped version also stars Cecile Monteyne as all the show's characters, including hotel staff and clientele, all rendered richly fascinating.
Written by Matthew Morris and Andrew Farrier and directed by Farrier, the show's story focuses on the concierge, who sees all and knows all about the hotel. We learn little about her, not even a full name, but through her we see much, if she is to be believed. She reveals that the hotel is in financial trouble and there is prostitution going on.
Monteyne is a comedic force who seamlessly transforms from the hotel owner's extravagant and out-of-touch wife to an explorer just returned from an archaeological dig in Mexico. In one moment, she's a French actress, and in the next a maid from New Jersey. The characters have conversations with each other, and Monteyne fills the stage with life and energy. With a raised eyebrow here and some linguistic flourishes there, she carries the one-person show brilliantly.
Many characters seem frantic but the concierge is always subdued. While she is loyal to the hotel, her demeanor at times seems grounded in fear. Though the mystery is entertaining, it's hard to understand the concierge without knowing more about her. She's isolated and perhaps fills some of that void with fabrications, but at times the ruse risks losing its strongest character.
The concierge's wild imagination and Monteyne's hilarious characterizations of hotel guests make the short visit well worth the trip. — TYLER GILLESPIE