A rapid fire bunch of Broadway con men gather in a cheesy hotel to rehearse a play that is still without financing. In John Murray and Allen Boretz’s 1937 farce directed by Mark Lamos, we watch the machinations of Gordon Miller (Ben Steinfeld) and his buddies as they try to stave off the hotel staff’s attempt to collect their bill.
Unbelievably enough, Miller has lodged his entire cast in the hotel for seven weeks (on credit) while they rehearse young Leo Davis’s (Eric Bryant) new play “Godspeed.” From the outline we are given, it sounds like a turkey, though about a Polish immigrant surveying all of American history, so we are never sure this play of theirs can possibly succeed.
This entire plot of “Room Service” is taken up with Miller’s trying to get a backer to pay his expenses and keep Gribble, the hotel manager (David Beach) and his boss Wagner (Michael McCormick) from throwing them out on the street. In the third act they add to the tension as their play opens in the hotel’s attached theater by threatening to have the sheriff remove the scenery in mid performance.
Softening the hard edges of these blithering incompetents are Miller’s love interest, actress Christine Marlowe (Zoe Winters) and hotel staffer and Leo’s love interest Hilda Manney (Hayley Treider) who break the rapid-fire all male rhythms with some genuine warmth and humanity.
This funny farce ran on Broadway in 1937-38 for 500 performances and was the basis for a less-funny Marx Brothers movie. Playhouse publicity emphasized how farces like this were rehearsed with a metronome to keep the pace of the show running at a rapid clip. Here what is mostly obvious is the metronome. The actors carefully rehearsed high speed slapstick is impressive to watch, much like a high-wire act, and you never have seen a group of men work so hard to get laughs out of this somewhat dated material.
While this is one of the more successful plays this season (next to “The Dining Room”) , ultimately the effort is tiring to the audience, except for the charm of the two actresses.
“Room Service” runs through October 27, with performances Tuesday at 8pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 8pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm and Sundays a 3pm. Tickets are available at 203-227-4177 or at their web site.