When I first walked into the Boardmore Playhouse to talk to director Bruce Cathcart about his latest project, I knew before anything was said – and well before I can see the play – that Hotel Paradiso is going to be a very busy show. The set is a fully constructed turn-of-the-century-style living room which, Bruce tells me, turns into a hotel for the second act, and then back to a living room for the third act. That’s fairly busy on its own. Add to that the 19 characters which exist in that space and all their separate storylines, and you’re going to have a lot of things happening all the time.
And even then, Bruce assured me, things don’t REALLY get hectic until Act 2.
Though “the characters are what’s memorable” in the play, according to Cathcart, “the humour is in the situations.” And there are plenty of those. Mistaken identities, affairs, sneaking around, and some run-ins with the law are only a few pieces of the plot of Hotel Paradiso.
I’ve heard the play described as “a mad bedroom frolic” and even a “sex romp”, but I was also told that it’s “a play for everyone” and “family friendly.” In other words, while some things may be eluded to, nothing is ever seen. Giving that this is often defined as a situational comedy, the idea of a “sex romp with no sex” seems to fit in very closely with our modern definition of the sit-com.
That’s not to say that the play isn’t modern. The story takes place in 1910, but “other than the lighting being provided by candles, the time doesn’t really matter.” The characters and situations are all recognizable and can be easily related to by any audience.
Among the 19 actors breathing life into this French-farce are some well known names in the local theatre community. Scott Sharplin (who recently portrayed a very playful Mercutio in CBU’s production of Romeo & Juliet) plays Boniface, in whose apartment the play begins. Joanne Cantwell plays his wife, Angelique. Josie Sobol and George MacKenzie play their neighbours, all of whom are central characters to the story. The play also has some younger actors including Rochelle MacQueen and Thomas Colford (both of whom have quite extensive acting backgrounds despite their young age). When I asked Colford about the play, he described it as “very fun but keeps you paying very close attention.” Indeed, with a cast of 19 (some doubling roles to boot!) if the audience were to miss something, it might be difficult to figure out who’s doing what… to whom. Luckily with the actors involved, I doubt paying attention will be a problem for the audience.
Being a play that may not be well known by playwrights (Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres) that are equally unknown in the area (something of a theme with this season of plays from the CBU Drama Group), I had to ask Bruce what audiences can expect with Hotel Paradiso. His reply was simple: “A lot of laughs.” That works for me.
Hotel Paradiso opens on Tuesday, February 16 at 7pm with a pay-what-you-can showing. The play will run Wednesday through Saturday with normal admission fees at the same time, and on Sunday the 21st with a 2pm matinee.