Castaways Repertory Theatre presents Room Service, a three-act play about a desperate, broke theatre crew versus their crippling hotel bill, directed by Stephen Keane.
The first thing that caught my attention came before the show even began. Castaways, a non-profit organization, supplied the audience with short surveys that they could fill out if they chose to, in the hopes of bettering themselves through constructive criticism. They also created incentive and made the idea fun by announcing that the surveys would be drawn, and the winners will win free tickets to an upcoming show of their choice. I’ve been to a lot of shows, but this production was the first to ask for feedback from the audience, which I found impressive and engaging. They were also very welcoming, and invited people with theatrical interest to become a part of their team.
Set Designer Gavin Tameris does an effective job of creating a believable hotel room; white-walled and fairly plain, with generic, scenic paintings commonly found in a hotel. Becky Farris and Richard Prien supply the producton with sound effects such as a ringing telephone, and K Goins-Williams and Stacy King keep the stage well lit as Lighting Directors. All of these designers are effectual, but the ones that really bring the play to life are Sabrina Chandler and Claudia Tameris, who are in charge of costumes. From crisp suits and ties and fancy dresses and hats, right down to suspenders and underwear, they have their bases covered. As this is also a play within a play, you get to see the cast’s ‘costumes,’ proven to be jaw-dropping gowns and hairdos akin to Marie Antoinette.
The plot centers on Gordon Miller (James McDaniel), who is desperate to put on a play, but his production team has run out of money, down to the point where they cannot even pay their hotel bill. In frantic attempts to keep his team from being turned onto the street, Miller and his companions concoct intricate stories and complex lies in order to trick the angry hotel manager Mr. Wagner, energetically played by Troy Golson, into letting them prolong their stay without payment. They create numerous scams, from making their playwright Leo Davis (Justin Janke), fake an extreme illness to promising a lively maid named Sasha Smirnoff (Katy Chmura), a non-existent part in their play – in exchange for meals. The cast is pretty large, and sometimes it seems like it is a revolving door of characters that can be hard to keep track of. Indeed, the first act was a scramble to identify all these characters and their relation to each other and the plot, but once these ties are understood, the second and third act are much more enjoyable.
When all of their falsehoods come to a chaotic head, Miller and the director of the play, Harry Binion, hilariously played by Brian Miller, spin off a web of trickery and lies in a frenzy, and find that, in order to make their play a reality…they must first pull off the ultimate performance.
There were times where I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the large number of characters, and the deceptions that continually snowball, only to get bigger and more implausible. It is, however, entertaining to watch the cast think quickly on their feet. Just when you think that they cannot possibly get out of their mess…you find yourself as hoodwinked as the hotel manager.
Running time is 120 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission and a 5-minute intermission.
Room Service plays through October 15th at Castaways Repertory Theatre, at Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building -5941 Donald Curtis Drive, in Woodbridge, VA. For tickets call (703) 508-5418, or order them online.