Even with the impeccable credentials of New York’s hot writer of the moment, Jon Robin Baitz, and Chicago’s brilliant director Robert Falls, Three Hotels is probably the wrong play to have the honor of opening the 2011 Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Main Stage season. While artistic director Jenny Gersten found an interesting and intimate two hander with two fine actors, Maura Wierney and Seven Weber, its political tale is simply old news, dated, two decades old in fact. Still, its underlying tale of greed and loss of humanity are timeless, so perhaps her choice is understandable. It is never a good sign when half way through a show you start wondering how much longer it is going to go on.
This is not to say that the slight three-part dramatic confessional isn’t the stuff of theatre, it is, but it is puffed up to mythical size with a gloriously extravagant set that slides and glides with elegant precision to form the three different hotels in the story. It reminded me of the original oversized production of Aspects of Love by Andrew Lloyd Weber, the last show I saw whose set was far, far bigger than its story. All the excessive window dressing didn’t add much to that show either.
Three Hotels is the story of some very human people overwhelmed by the forces of “going along to get along” n the corporate world. Still, it is the human choices inherent in the story that provide the gravitas. Three Hotels could have almost the same impact as a staged reading, or printed word for word as a three-part dissertation in the New York Times Magazine. It is an earnest subject, written well, but in a large theatre the lack of dialogue and interaction deliver a bland theatrical experience, no matter how good the actors or fervent its message. To me it was just theatrical celery, no sizzle, no steak.