I’ve never been to a swanky hotel where my every need was at the beck and call of a hotel concierge. But if I ever did visit such a hotel, I don’t think the experience would be anything like Goodman Theatre’s newest play, The Upstairs Concierge.
Goodman (170 N. Dearborn St.) delivers a play that is nothing like any it has put on before. The comedy has an odd sense of humor, merging corny and slapstick. The result is a play worth seeing once for a few laughs, but not worth seeing multiple times. And it’s also not a big deal if you find other plans for your Saturday night (e.g. mini golf, because mini golf is always worth it).
The Upstairs Concierge depicts a day in the life of Ella (Tawny Newsome), a new concierge at an upscale Chicago hotel. With three rooms, the hotel only books the most famous of celebrities — all of whom have several odd and demanding requests.
The aim of the production is clearly to keep audience members laughing the whole time, which the cast was semi-successful at doing. The fast-paced storyline kept audience members looking around the elaborate set to keep track of all the subplots.
The set had two floors, which gave an interesting view for the audience members because they could easily see the lobby and the upstairs hallway. There is a staircase on each side of the stage for the characters to frantically run up and down (which they did often). But even though the play had constant plot development and elaborate chase scenes, most of the humor missed the mark.
The whole performance is pretty much an adult version of the Disney Channel show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, except that airheaded celebrities staying at the hotel are the ones wreaking havoc instead of twin boys (and Ella is the female version of Mr. Moseby). The Disney show and Goodman’s play share a very similar comedy style — cheesy. The acting is overstretched and the characters are extremely unrealistic.
These characters include Shivery (Sandra Delgado), a novelist who uses “method acting” (as in she acts out her book’s characters to gain inspiration) to write her latest book, and Rebecca (Alejandra Escalante), a new Internet sensation after her bunting video goes viral. That’s right, bunting as in baseball.
Every character in the play has a distinct personality and unrealistic qualities. Some of them were more entertaining than others, but when every character has the same cheesy, childlike sense of humor, the comedy continually gets lost.
Escalante was the standout actress, pulling off the quirky yet cute and loveable bunting sensation. Her small figure bounced around the stage with exuberance and the scenes she was in were the funniest. Walking in the hotel lobby wearing a hot dog costume (just because she felt like it) warranted a great deal of laughter.
Another actress who deserves recognition is Theo Allyn, who plays Mark Merriman, a New York Yankees recruiter looking for Rebecca to join the team. The small redheaded actress flawlessly pulled off her male character with a thick New York accent and personality. The fact that this tiny actress played a tough New Yorker was in itself hilarious. This casting choice allowed for each of her lines to be twice as funny.
All in all, The Upstairs Concierge had a few standout characters and scenes that had the whole audience laughing, but the play didn’t succeed in keeping up the humor. Scenes that didn’t have a lot of laughs were cheesy and the dialogue appeared rehearsed. I simply couldn’t help feeling as if I were 10 years old again and watching a Disney Channel show, except with more references to orgies.
The Upstairs Concierge runs through April 26 at Goodman Theatre (170 N. Dearborn St.). Tickets range from $10-20 and are available for purchase at goodmantheatre.org.