Pandemonium rules at Kristoffer Diaz’s world premiere comedy, The Upstairs Concierge, that opened Monday night on the Goodman Theatre’s Owen stage.
The farcical misadventures take place at The Hotelman Arms—a boutique hotel in Chicago—where no doors are locked and “everyone is family.”
The play is a farce, which has been in development since 2013 by Obie Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz. Diaz has become a vibrant voice in the theater world with his well-received The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Victory Gardens Theater and others.
Diaz who knows many Chicago actors of color and considers them an “untapped asset” utilized a multiracial, all-Chicago ensemble for this production.
Second City’s knockout Tawny Newsome (Ella, the Upstairs Concierge) is at the center of the pandemonium–onstage throughout its 100-minute run. She is the lone voice of sanity surrounded by nine crazies–on duty 24/7 at the hotel. It is she, along with her skeleton staff consisting of two befuddled bellboys (Gabriel Ruiz, John Stokvis), who make sure all the wheels are greased.
Expectations were high for this production which fell flat on Monday night–although there was a generous sprinkling of laughter throughout the show inside the packed Owen Theatre.
Farce, has been out of the limelight since the Great Depression, but has been undergoing a renaissance during the past few years. Productions in the West End and on Broadway–From One Man, Two Guvnors to Noises Off to What the Butler Saw and others–have been drawing raves and crowds—providing a good time in bad times.
What Diaz tried to do with The Upstairs Concierge is honorable.
He was bringing an old art form, the farce, into the twenty-first century by populating it with today’s celebrities–such as celebrity blogger, BB (Jose Antonio Garcia), a Perez Hilton wannabe; a ”Fifty Shades of Gray” kind-of novelist played by Shivery Delicious (Sandra Delgado), and straight from the Internet, bunting wonder Rebecca Oaxaca (Alejandra Escalante), whose bunting video went viral, and is now being “hunted” by an oddball collection of baseball scouts (Travis Turner, Theo Allyn) in various states of dress and undress from Cubs jockey shorts to Astro’s T’s–competing to get her to sign on to become the first women in the majors. The hotel owners (Cedric Young, Mia Park), complete the wacky ensemble.
The set, a prairie style masterpiece designed by Todd Rosenthal, seemingly spared no expense and would certainly get a nod of approval from Frank Lloyd Wright (were he still able to nod).
The production has all the elements one expects in a farce from stereotyped characters, extravagant exaggeration, and violent horseplay but lacks a needed chemistry.
I will not be rating, The Upstairs Concierge because even though it has been in development for over two years–it still seems to be a work in progress. It’s goals are noble–to shape an old art form into new times–not always an easy task but worth the effort.
Tickets and Information:
Tickets: $10-40, available online or by phone 212 443 3800
Run: Now through April 26
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