Grand Hotel

Damn the bill—full-speed farce ahead

"In troubled times, people turn to farce," says a program note to Room Service, and it's hard to disagree. But John Murray and Allen Boretz's wallpaper-thin 1937 comedy, in which a desperate theater troupe tries to mount a show while trapped in a shabby Times Square hotel it can't afford to check out of, is a tough sell. Nowadays the sharpest director and the nimblest cast would have a hard time landing punchlines about Herbert Hoover and Billy Rose. Still, much of the play holds up remarkably well: The struggles of producing a new Broadway play haven't changed much since the Depression—although the $15,000 budget gets a big laugh. And I'd be hard-pressed to imagine a funnier, more loving production than the Peccadillo Theater Company's. Director Dan Wackerman drives a polished, smooth-running machine at full speed, steady even when it looks as though the wheels might come off. With such seamless ensemble work, it's a disservice to single out a performer, but I'll do it anyway: David Edwards as the frantic producer, a role Groucho Marx played in the film version. And Sterling Coyne, as a hotelier with anger-management issues, stands out as something of a medical miracle—prone to screaming fits out of Looney Tunes, eyes bulging, sweat pouring down his reddened face, steam practically coming out of his ears. I'd have laughed harder if I hadn't been seriously afraid that his head was about to explode.

 
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