Every so often, I run into a play that I have a difficult time rating. This is the case with the current production being put on stage in Lake Fores by Citadel Theatre Company, “Hospitality Suite” by Roger Rueff. As a play, it appears to be a little incomplete and yet the acting and direction are worthy of a higher rating . The story is about what is called a “Hospitality Suite”, very close to what out of town guests experience at a wedding or other big event, but in this case, related to business at a trade show/convention where the company reps, who mingle during the day with potential customers have an opportunity to drink and “schmooz” in the evening. We get a glimpse into what these people really want.
In Rueff’s story, we are in Wichita Kansas, in a Holiday Inn suite , high above the city of Wichita ( I spent a week there one night), and the gentlemen involved are those who work for a company that NEEDS that big deal to make their very existence worthwhile. Larry ( expertly played by Scott Phelps) is the salesman in the group and in this script has all the stereotype elements that people think of when they hear “salesman”. Phil ( deftly handled by Will Casey) is the “marketing” man with the company and while his personal life is going through havoc, he feels that the company will survive.
The newcomer, who has never been to one of these functions before is Bob ( newcomer to the area Shane Murray-Corcoran) who has a strong religious lifestyle, is newly married and is the “brain” they brought with to impress the ” Big Kahuna” they are hoping to land.
What happens during these two acts ( several scenes in each) is that we get to explore the lives of each of these men, their dreams, desire, ambitions and needs. Each is different and although Larry and Phil have worked together many years, it appears that their aspirations are very different. There are some very serious moments in the play, but a perfect balance of comic touches as well. I guess that is why rating this production is so difficult. Having been in sales for many years, and having attended conventions such as this one, I can see that the personalities of those involved could be very different, but I never felt that they were all on the “same page”. It seems as if each has his own agenda and although the “big Kahuna” does visit their “Hospitality Suite”, we do not see him. We do meet “the Man” ( Dan Deuel is there for the laughs) we wonder why he was there, except for the laughs and maybe to confuse us- is he “the Big Kahuna”?
Directed by Cody Estle on a wonderful set ( very Holday Inn’ish) by Sean McIntosh, with the exception of a few misplaced backs to the audience, the play moves well. The costumes (Sarah Jo White) and lighting (Ethan Vail) along with the props ( and there are tons of those) by Alberto Ruiz all add to the story. I for one, was caught in the characters, but the ending, for me was very quick and abrupt and left me wondering what really happened? Who made the phone call to the “Hospitality Suite” and what did Phil mean when he said what he said?
The answers are unclear to me, but perhaps you will see the light that I missed along the way. You have a short time to do so, as “Hospitality Suite” will play through March 9th with performances as follows:
Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
The theater is located at 300 S. Waukegan Road ( just South of Route 60) in Lake Forest and ticket prices are $35 and $37.50. There is also a matinée on February the 19th at 11 a.m..
To purchase your tickets call 847-735-8554 or visit www.citadeltheatre.org. Citadel promises to bring live theater to the North Shore at a reasonable cost and a comfortable venue.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com , go to Review Round-up and click at “Hospitality Suite”