Recommended *** This evening, prior to heading to the Goodman for the World premiere of Kristoffer Diaz’s new comedy, “The Upstairs Concierge”, I attended a birthday party for a fellow theater reviewer and one of the guests was Dale Benson, the master of “farce” in Chicago theater for decades. Seeing Dale prior to attending this show was, in my mind, a “sign”. I mean, here I was with the master and then heading off to a new farce- WOW! What a coincidence!
While this new show, smoothly directed by KJ Sanchez, produced jointly with Teatro Vista, has some very funny moments, the story itself may still have some slight flaws that need to be ironed out along the way. Sanchez gives the script a woman’s touch, but for some reason, took to long to get to the storyline. I did not see the short films that were a part of the development stage, that may have helped in following the full story, a 75 minutes (no intermission) of highly energetic performance. Doing “Farce” takes a specific talent and expertise. A writer, no matter how talented, cannot just jump in and hope for the best. Yes, this show has the typical contents for a farce- lots of doors and stairs. The set is wonderful (Todd Rosenthal has truly created a masterpiece for the smaller stage of the Owen Theatre.
The story takes place in a new Boutique hotel in Chicago. The hotel has a uniqueness in that there is an “Upstairs Concierge” who lives in the suite with three special, and very important guests. We learn as the story progresses that Ella Elizondo, the concierge (Tawny Newsome, who shows her expertise in comedy from her years at Second City) to its fullest, is wonderful. She has the function of keeping all of her guests happy, despite them all wanting to either be naked or see others naked. Yes, the running in and out of rooms and up and down the stairs, with some very Cirque Soleil type moves made for good comedy, but I for one, found the story line to be a little inane.
It turns out, one of their guests is a skilled bunter and every baseball team in the U.S. wants to sign her for their team. Yes, that is the premise- a female that can bunt, highly demanded by every major league team! Ella has a staff of two bellhops, Harvey (Gabriel Ruiz, showing a total different side to his talents) and Kaz (John Stokvis, who has incredible skills and could easily fit in at Lookingglass, where gymnastics reign highly). They all work for Jeffrey Hotelman (Cedric Young) and his wife, Dia Hotelman (Mia Park in a unique character role). Scattered through the story are BB, a blogger/reporter (Jose Antonio Garcia), the always funny Travis Turner as Astros guy”, Alejandra Escalante as Rebecca Oaxaca, our bunter, the incredible Sandra DelGado as Shivery Delicious and Theo Allyn as Mark Merriman, from the Yankees. Pay close attention to this character, as she is adorable.
What we have is typical farce material, mistaken identities and loyalties, doors closing on people, elevators appearing out of nowhere, baseball logos showing up in unusual places, lots of slapstick, lots of confusion and a great deal of people taking off their clothing and putting on some luxurious robes. Oh, yes, there are lots of laughs, but not as much as a Ken Ludwig show like “Lend Me A Tenor” which in my opinion sets the tone for modern day farce. Back in the Shady lane Playhouse days, shows like “Up In Mabel’s Room”, Getting Gertie’s Garter” and “Critics Choice” were shows that brought Dale Benson to his glory. This production needs a little work, but is enjoyable to watch. Perhaps as these actors do more performances, the timing will become more split second- we can hope! A tip of the hat to Rachel Healy’s costumes, Mikhail Fiksel’s sound and Marcus Doshi for his lighting effects.
Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
4/23 a 2 p.m. as well
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 7:30 p.m.
(NO eve. on 4/12 and 4/26)
Tickets range from $10-$40 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Upstairs.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Upstairs Concierge”