In George F. Walker’s “Suburban Motel,” playing now through Oct. 21, that line rings through the auditorium of Whitman stage as part of the Brooklyn College Theater Department’s first show of the season.
Featuring two one-act plays of the original sextet collection of the same title, “Suburban Motel” is darkly comedic and gritty; both “Adult Entertainment,” and “Featuring Loretta,” take place in a motel room.
Both pieces involve an intimate cast of four and, aside from BFA actress Fiona Criddle (“Sophie,” in “Featuring Loretta”), is all MFA actors. The production, directed by Mary Beth Easley, and designed by Scott Mancha (set); Nikki Cammack, Angelica Borrero (costumes); Tsubasa Kamei (lighting); and Mark Bruckner (sound and video), is beautifully put together.
Overall, the performance feels highly polished and largely succeeds in allowing the audience a night of dark, biting comedy.
The intimate setting allows for a true immersion. As the show begins, a large purple sign with the word “Motel” in neon red letters blazes in the darkness.
Indeed, “intimate,” aptly describes the plays. Both deal, in one way or another, with the duality of sex and business.
“Adult Entertainment” focuses on two rogue cops, Max (Jonny Maldonado) and Donny (Jeremy Ping), Max’s lover, laywer Jayne (Andrea Aranguren) and Donny’s innocent wife, Pam (Sarah Poleshuck) as they fight to retain their morals during an important court case.
Mr. Ping’s humorous timing, booming voice, and rueful laugh shine in “Adult Entertainment.” His strong presence brings Donny’s character to life, protecting him from the easily pigeonholed role of funny sidekick that can often happen in comedies and police procedurals.
Another strength of the piece is the stage chemistry between Mr. Ping and Ms. Poleshuck. Donny and Pam are a couple whose relationship slowly crashes around them and the two struggle to maintain their individual integrity, largely for their daughter Emma. Ms. Poleshuck takes the challenge of playing an urban, complicated woman with gusto, and it is a pleasure to watch her perform a role so different from some of her previous work at Brooklyn College.
A dream sequence featuring Pam dressed in hooker clothes, proves one of the most memorable scenes of the night, both comically and technically.
Mr. Maldonado performs Max strongly as well. A character with bite and strong opinions, Maldonado’s character both clashes and gels with Ms. Aranguren’s portrayal of Jayne. Ms. Aranguren’s strength lies in her physicality and voice; a character of much conflict, Jayne is capitvating and strong.
The strong bonds between the actors are obvious, as all the characters seem developed, realistic, and comfortable.
The second act of the night, “Featuring Loretta,” includes the performances of Keelie A. Sheridan (Loretta,) Ms. Criddle (Sophie), Aaron Mednick (Dave,) and Patrick McCormick (Michael) as a group of people, brought together by circumstance and finance.
Loretta, a guest in a hotel, spends most of the play trying to maintain autonomy and make a quick buck. The highlights of “Featuring Loretta,” are beautifully choreographed fights between Dave and Michael, both hilarious and well done thanks to violence director Robert Tuftee. The performance stands out as more hi jinxed and slapstick than “Adult Entertainment,” and hilarity definitely ensues.
Mr. Mednick and Mr. McCormick have wonderful interactions throughout the show, and their connection brings a lot of strength and energy to the piece. Mr. Mednick holds strongly to his character, and Mr. McCormick performs well, though at times seeming a bit shy or not fully committed to his character. The costuming for both men is wonderful as well.
Mrs. Sheridan is a strong, determined and independent Loretta who holds only to her own standards and was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The captivating stage chemistry between Mrs. Sheridan and Ms. Criddle as two lost American women is the strong draw of the night. Adorable and sympathetic yet full of depth, Ms. Criddle’s characterization of Sophie succeeds in being more than just a comedic girl with a Russian accent.
A night at Suburban Motel will cost seven dollars, but it proves to be one of the most memorable nights a person could have in a motel; certainly one worth experiencing.
Performances of Suburban Motel take place on October 12-14: Friday – Saturday at 7:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM and October 18-21: Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Whitman Theater. General admission is $15, for seniors it is $12 and students admission is $7. For reservations please call (718) 951-4500 or please visit the Theater Department web page at http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater.
By Amy Gijsbers van Wijk