Hotbed Hotel heats up the comedy at Playhouse


 It’s the stuff of nightmares in the hotel business.

The Turtle Beach Hotel toilets leak, there’s a gaping hole in the front yard, and the dog next door has been leaving its own unique ‘deposits’ at the front desk.

The staff is down to two individuals: a terribly confused chamber maid who has been ordered to take on reception and room service as well (“I’m not sure I want to service guests in their rooms,” she blurts), and a handyman whose motto is “never fix anything permanently.”

 Owners Terri and Brian Cody are desperate to sell the place. (Brian: “This is a one star hotel.” Hopkins the handyman: “That’s because there’s not a no star rating.”). Their frantic scheme to ‘dump’ the Turtle sets off a conspiracy of comedy.

Audiences will be glad they took out ‘reservations’ at Upper Canada Playhouse’s Hotbed Hotel: it’s riotous fun.

Director Donnie Bowes has put together a first-rate cast and a first-rate production of Michael Parker’s frenetic and funny ‘American farce.’ Staged on a beautiful and versatile John Thompson set, the action and rapid fire lines on-stage never slow down from the moment the hotel owner Brian Cody says prophetically, “Something will go wrong. I just know it!”

The fun of farces rests firmly on their utter improbability.

“There is actually a fine line between farce and a tragedy,” Bowes said during an earlier interview. “The pace is vital. The characters should never have time to stop, think and reason, because that, of course, would destroy the humour.”

This is a cast of highly skilled performers more than able to rise to the challenges of the play.

Timm Hughes and Debra Hale play the hapless Codys. She’s determined to pull off the great ‘con’ when prospective buyer Sam Lewis appears. He’s determined to see the darker side of the whole plan. “Nothing has turned out. We’re no further ahead than we were before.” 

And it won’t help that the couple ropes into their schemes a group for whom the word ‘eccentric’ was invented.

Hopkins the handyman, played by veteran actor, Mo Bock, in a fog of happy alcohol fumes, has love on his mind, not masquerades. Maureen, the maid, (AnnaMarie Lea in the sort of role in which she excels) is desperately trying to keep two completely different thoughts in her head at the same time. She will not be successful. 

Doug Tangney,  delightful as a retired British Major, is sincerely hoping to help the Codys, but is a little unsure if he will be ‘up to the demands of the job’? 

Or, as Hopkins puts it, “All I get to do is talk about sin. Ponsenby gets to do it!” 

In the frantic role of the “Barracuda,” a hotel guest with an all-male shopping list, Susan Greenfield needs to be wildly energetic and wildly outrageous. She is.

“I have this thing for clergymen, reverend,” she remarks salaciously to what she thinks is a preacher. “You and I should have an organ recital together.”

Richard Bauer brings just the right mixture of bombast and hypocrisy to his role as Sam Lewis, possible purchaser of the Turtle Beach. For a man piously telling others to control their “animal impulses”, Lewis has some comic secrets of his own.

Erin MacKinnon, in the role of the rather sweet young thing Ashley, is as close to a ‘straight man’ as this play ever gets. After all, it’s not really her fault that her clothes keep vanishing!

Brenda Quesnel is Dorothy, the umbrella-wielding mystery woman, whose appearance will set off a chain reaction of mayhem in Act II. As another guest, prey to her temper, bluntly remarks, “If that woman lived in India, she’d be sacred.”

The back stage crew is in top form for Hotbed Hotel. Headed by stage manager Liz Campbell,  they have dozens of cues to meet, props hand offs, elaborate costume and set changes and  several tricky physical gags to manage. As director Bowes put it, “Backstage can sometimes be as exciting as on stage in a farce.”

The bends, twists and turns of character and plot are delivered at a breathless pace in this production. The play flips 180 degrees so often it’s like being in a spin cycle at times. 

Outrageous, brilliantly paced and howlingly funny, Hotbed Hotel runs until July 1 at the Upper Canada Playhouse.

For ticket information on evening and matinee shows, contact  613-543-3713. 

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