“Hotel Paradiso” at the Group Rep is a French farce by Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres with the translation by Peter Glenville. It takes place at the home of Benedict and Angelique Boniface as well as the Hotel Paradiso and contains a plot with so many twists and turns it would require a flow chart to explain everything properly . . . and even then it still probably wouldn’t make sense.
Farce is known for its outrageous plots strewn throughout with ludicrous circumstances, in which it is actually better if you don’t try to make sense of the plot because they often don’t make sense. If the characters were to slow down and logically think out what was happening, the whole storyline could often be avoided. Because of this it is essential that farce be performed at a quick pace. That way the cavalcade of events avalanche into one another so completely that the outrageous becomes believable simply because no one has time to logically dissect what just happened. The subsequent action becomes the reaction for what came before.
The other key component to farce is that the actors – not the characters, they can be flustered, but the actors have to make it look easy. Like the Harlem Globe Trotters, if the audience can see the performers prepping for the next bit, all of the magic is lost. Every successive curve ball thrown at them needs to be as much of a surprise to the character as it is to the audience. Unfortunately, the pacing of Group Rep’s “Hotel Paradiso” is stop and go, and the cast is working for every line.
There are a few moments that live up to true farce, and a few of the actors turn in respectable performances. Van Boudreaux as Benedict Boniface is fabulously expressive and his takes to the audience are perfectly timed, and Andrew Bourgeois is wonderfully awkward and oblivious as Maxime. However, by and large this cast feels under-rehearsed, and painfully so. The pacing is stilted, cues are dropped right and left, many of the actors appear to be uncomfortable in their business and those affecting an accent have trouble hanging on to them. There is even a discrepancy as to the pronunciation of names from one character to the next.
At the end, where there are several instances where the entire cast speaks the same line, the pacing slows further still and the actors obviously look to one another to try to stay in sync. This lack of crispness and polish creates a very long evening at the theatre stretching the run time of this production to two hours and 45 minutes (including the two intermissions).
Good farce is like a tidal wave. Your best bet is to enjoy the ride because no matter what, you’re going to get swept up in the commotion. This production is more akin to a mountain stream. You can easily stand up and make your way to the shore. Or, never leave the shore in the first place.
*Coverage provided for the Culver City News