Business is the business of America," as Calvin Coolidge once said. That viewpoint is curiously rare onstage, however. Death of a Salesman dealt in part with some of the seedier sides of the business world. But it centered on a man and his family. Hospitality Suite by Roger Reuff -- which recently received a top-notch production at Southern Rep -- takes on business. But, like Glengarry Glen Ross, Reuff's play focuses on the men themselves. In that way, it's kind of like a war movie -- if you can think of a hotel room in Wichita as a trench under bombardment.
We watch three guys who work for a company that manufactures industrial lubricants. Phil (Bob Scully) is a longtime employe, who seems to have reached a turning point in his life. For one thing, he's given up drinking. Maybe he joined Alcoholics Anonymous. But -- either because of a 12-step program or simply because of sobriety -- he is calmer and more philosophical than he used to be. We gather this from Larry (Bob Pavlovich), another longtime employee. Larry still knocks down quite a bit of hooch. He is more high-strung and ambitious than Phil. He is also confused by the change in his old friend.
The third guy in this sales team is Bob (Lucas Harms). He's a young, somewhat prudish, born-again Baptist. Bob is working his first convention. He is the loose cannon on this corporate deck, partly because his mind and heart are with Jesus (rather than with lubricants) and partly because he's a bit slow on the uptake, when it comes to making a pitch.
Somehow, amidst the conflicts and camaraderie of these salesmen at work, a more fundamental level of feeling came into the play. These deeper concerns were underplayed, but they hooked me, nonetheless. The fine acting, at once dynamic and honest, gave a haunting resonance to the tale of business and bonding.
Bravos to Scully, Pavlovich and Harms. Bravo, as well, to director Perry Martin, for a fine-tuned sense of truth.
There were two other plays -- The Slave Quarters and In the Spider's Realm -- on the bill at Southern Rep. Both were written by local playwright Geri Haywood.
The Slave Quarters told a sordid tale set in a French Quarter rooming house-cum-drug ring. A young couple of drifters named Stone (Mark Alber) and Angel (Veronica Belletto) take up lodgings in a place run by a nervous geek named Crazy (Travis Acosta). There were abundant complications involving a drug dealer, a gay voodoo priest and two strippers. Much doubling of parts permitted the complications to complicate themselves at considerable length.
Under Dane Rhodes' direction, the cast was game, creating a believable drug-dazed inferno. Dante's voyage through the inferno holds our interest because we travel forward with Dante. Staying in one corner of hell grows a bit grueling.
In the Spider's Realm is subtitled Movement I: The Black Widow. Despite the eponymous arachnid, the play was lighter and more entertaining that it's companion piece. We get off to a chipper start when Daphne (Ashley Ricord), who appears to be a struggling writer (struggling so hard, in fact, that she had fallen asleep over her typewriter). The phone rings. She wakes up and answers it -- pretending to be her own agent -- then she pretends to pass the phone to herself.
From there, we jump into a bottle of Bombay Gin -- a large cutout of a bottle of Bombay Gin, that is, with a portrait of Queen Victoria on the label. For Daphne is writing a romance novel about that formidable monarch. The flesh and blood Victoria (Lisa Picone) soon takes the place of her portrait. Among the other historical personages in this "very, very, very, very sad" tale are Prime Minister Gladstone (Paul Soileau), Prime Minister Disraeli (Rudy Rasmussen) and Mr. John Brown (Dane Rhodes). Brown, as you will probably remember, was the commoner and employee of the queen, who helped console her for the loss of her dear, departed Albert.
Spider's Realm did not receive a full production. It was given a staged reading, under the direction of Richard Read and Flynn De Marco -- of Running With Scissors fame. Their knack for creating a full and funny world with very skimpy means -- in this case, a desk and a bottle -- served the play well. As for plot, let's just say the play is about a queen who, upon learning the Irish demand home rule, wonders where can she find someone to clean her crown. Spider's Realm was an entertaining trifle.
- Travis Acosta, Veronica Belletto and Mark Albers double up and rock out in Geri Haywood's The Slave Quarters, currently on the boards at Southern Rep.