Sunday, July 15, 2018
Stage

Review: Hat Trick’s ‘What the Bellhop Saw’ is long on hijinx, short on laughs

CLEARWATER — A married man sneaks into a swank hotel room, expecting to be joined by his mistress. His buddy Wally, the bellhop who let him in without paying, is there to help.

Within the first few minutes of What the Bellhop Saw, Wally (Maxx Janeda) persuades Georgie Leach (Ryan Bernier) to change into a pair of silk pajamas he stole. For some reason, Wally delivers some of his lines while lying on the floor.

Another few minutes brings in hotel manager (Eddie Gomez), who speaks in a phony continental accent, a CIA agent (Betty-Jane Parks) sweeping the room for terrorists and an ambitious hotel maid quick to unbutton her blouse. By this point, many in this small but packed Murray Theatre at Ruth Eckerd Hall, where Hat Trick Theatre performs, were already laughing. Ruth Eckerd’s resident theater company is fond of farces. Director Jack Holloway manages to corral a cast of 12 through scores of entrances through any of four doors or two windows.

Georgie’s plan fails when author Roger Fish (David Barrow), who has written a book critical of the Soviet Union, somehow checks into the same room. Roger is in danger from a Russian hit man, Boris (Nathan Juliano). At least half the cast members spend a lot of time hiding from the other half, bumping into and startling each other, or changing clothes, including several at one time dressed as bellhops.

The agent’s gun goes off several times. Missy the maid (Louisa Pastorius) is drawn to the chaos, hoping it will generate fame and a chance to be on television with Phil Donahue or Oprah, an indication of the vintage-1990 script by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore. The first half ends with a carousel of characters leaping through the hotel room for several minutes to a waltz.

The second act is mercifully shorter and gets into things like the suitcase full of money, and a hotel suite with characters tossing around a live bomb. Resolutions occur, matches are made and the bad guys, including Georgie’s wife Arlene and Boris, are led away in handcuffs. The play contains a few moments that are almost funny. For instance, there’s a scene in which Georgie hides by jumping under the covers, only with his legs coming out at the foot of a king-sized bed. He was joining Wally, who was pretending to be resting at the top of the bed. So with the bedspread it looked like Wally had to be 10 feet tall because his torso was connected to Georgie’s legs.

Bottom line, if all of this sounds funny to you, then What the Bellhop Saw is a can’t-miss. If it sounds wearisome, this could be a long night.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

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