With mistaken identities, would-be infidelities and a possibly haunted guest room, A Little Hotel on the Side transforms Little Lake Theatre’s intimate stage into a slamming-door French farce. An ambitious production featuring a cast of 26, the story centers on two unhappily married couples: the Pinglets (Tom Protulipac and Jen Kopach), who loathe the very sight of one another, and the Paillardins, who, despite the protests of wife Marcelle (Stacey Rosleck), engage in zero bedroom frolics because her husband (Ned Salopek) doesn’t believe in “hanky panky.”
Of course, as the title suggests, hanky panky is exactly what this story’s all about. Much of the humor dabbles in the low-brow sexual variety, and despite its age — A Little Hotel on the Side was written more than a century ago by Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres — this comedy holds up surprisingly well. The action opens and closes in the Pinglets’ home as plans for romantic affairs are made — and often dashed — while the second act is set in the eponymous hotel where most of the characters unwittingly converge one evening. Director TJ Firneno keeps the raucous slapstick moving without overpowering the stage, and the sparse yet suggestive set design maintains a perfect balance of the baroque and simplistic.
The supporting cast features many standout performances, notably from two of the most unlikely lovers — naive philosophy student Maxime (Kent Hess) and the Pinglets’ feisty maid, Victoire (Greta Englert). Their seemingly mismatched pairing — he’s focused on the intellectual underpinnings of love, while she craves a more physical exploration of the topic — makes for the best chemistry of the production.
By the final scene, the characters haven’t learned many lessons, but this isn’t a tale of redemption or profound introspection. This is a play that focuses on the laughs, and with a capable cast and a nearly three-hour running time, there are plenty of opportunities for the audience to do just that.