Bed & Breakfast

By Richard Lay
Directed by Simcha Borenstein
Sage Theatre Company
Independent Theatre
52 W. 8th St (212/868-4444)
Non-union production (closes May 25)
Review by Charles Battersby

The concept behind "Bed & Breakfast" is as follows: two guys (one Jewish, one Irish) decide to open a bed and breakfast inn, along with some help from a black lawyer. To gain publicity, they decide to post a sign in front of their renovated 19th-century inn, which reads "No Jews, No Irish, No Blacks." This concept has the potential to be funny, and might even offer the chance for insight into race relations or for satire about religious discrimination, but Bed & Breakfast does none of these things.

The dialog in most scenes consists of characters trading long-winded monologs, sometimes followed by one character's making an unsuccessful attempt at wit, followed by a blackout.

In defense of Richard Lay, a handful of lines in his play have the potential to be funny, and on one or two occasions they actually turned out to be moderately amusing; like, "How dare he rub your toe knuckles?"

The cast did nothing to make the most of the few chances for humor, usually delivering their lines as though recently risen from their graves. They were usually slow-paced, flat, emotionless and completely devoid of comic timing. In their defense, several members of the cast had more film and TV credits than theatre experience, and perhaps their acting technique was more effective on camera.

The only member of the ensemble who approached adequacy was William Oliver Watkins. His character serves as a sort of narrator, who used wordy monologs to provide the audience with information they could easily have figured out for themselves. The highlight of the show was when Watkins entered dressed in a cowgirl outfit. Alas, even if the whole cast had been nothing but drag queens in cowgirl outfits, it wouldn’t have saved this show.

Director Simcha Borenstein didn’t seem to understand where the audience sits in a theatre. One actor (Steve Kasprzak) stormed onstage and, through unforgivable blocking, delivered all of his lines with his back to the audience. The show was so slow-paced that it appeared to have been a one-act play that had been deliberately stretched to full length by slowing down the action and including several lengthy moments where characters sat around the stage doing nothing for extended periods of time.

The cheap suits the protagonists wore matched their washed-up yuppie characters, but the blue-jean-and-sneaker wearing oil tycoon from act II was distinctly dressed down for a billionaire. The set (Louis Lippolis) was composed of an antique-looking wooden table/chair set that supported the notion that the action took place in a restored 19th-century inn. Other locations, like a movie theatre, were simulated through lighting and sound effects (Louis Lopardi and Sherriane Felix), such as darkening the entire stage save for a single pair of chairs or a desk. Though Lopardi and Felix's work was effective, it did not redeem the rest of the show.

(Also featuring Paul Campbell, Brad Ploscowe, Elizabeth Anne Wood, and Jessica Clough.)

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 0
Acting: 0
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby