Roger Rueff's Hospitality Suite, now a multimedia stage experience by Claochlu Studios, starts off like a play you've seen many times before. (OK, if you caught 1999's The Big Kahuna, you did see the film version of this 1992 comedic drama.) Here we have Mametian men breathing profanity and desperation, flailing in a sea of excess testosterone and business woes.
But that's not what's really happening. Rueff upends expectations not only about where his play is going but also about who his characters are. Early impressions of who embodies trustworthiness, arrogance, loyalty, hypocrisy, etc., are vaporized and reshaped, involving some serious and worthwhile discussions of male friendship and of religion.
The premise is simple enough: At an industrial convention, three company men await the arrival of An Important Business Guy — their Big Kahuna, Godot, Great White Whale, maguffin, whatever. The quest/pursuit is the catalyst for three personalities to clash, mesh and re-form.
We start with the two old-timers: phlegmatic-veering-to-melancholic Phil, portrayed with quiet authority by Everett Lowe; and Jeff Monahan robustly chewing scenery as the sanguine-turning-to-choleric Larry. Lacking their humor, or humours, is young Bob, portrayed with chilling innocence (as in Mark Twain's A Mysterious Stranger) by Matt Henderson.
Claochlu is a new collaboration between Cup-A-Jo Productions and 72nd St. Films, and director Joanna Lowe expands the intimate play with live video: two camera operators (William Laszlo Holman on handheld and Bob Skwaryk on wide shot, the night I was there) probing and underlining the action. The audience watches the play from multiple angles simultaneously, and enjoys such effects as an "eternal mirror" unfolding. (Thank you, Citizen Kane.)
Often hilarious, Hospitality Suite provides a few hard kicks to the gut in a realistic setting made hyper-theatrical yet more accessible by an innovative multimedia approach.