Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Worth a Visit to 'Hospitality Suite'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Worth a Visit to 'Hospitality Suite'

Article excerpt

The "chief business of the American people is business," as that great sage Calvin Coolidge notoriously said.

Whether that's true, business is one of the favorite subjects of American drama, especially the spiritual cost to the shock troops of business, its salesmen. The masterpiece is Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" (1949), in which Willy Loman dies in pursuit of the salesman's dream. From there it's straight through to David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" (1984), where the sales wars are more cutthroat, and we laugh in shock.

Continue a decade further and you come to a softer, lesser-known play in the Mamet tradition, Roger Rueff's "Hospitality Suite" (1992), which you might also call "life's a pitch." You may know its film version, "The Big Kahuna" (1999), starring Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito.

Now, 20 years after its stage debut, "Hospitality Suite" arrives in Pittsburgh, and it's been worth the wait. I won't say it has anything new to say, but it says it with existential implications worth pondering, and the production adds a dimension that multiplies its perspectives.

The production by Claochlu Studios in a soundstage at Pittsburgh Filmmakers multiplies the play's physical perspectives by sitting the audience on one side and mounting two large video monitors behind the acting area. There we see varying images shot in real time from behind or beside us -- close-ups of faces, wide shots from different angles, mute details of the set and occasionally endlessly repeating images, when a camera shoots something in front of a monitor, like looking in a mirror that reflects a mirror that reflects the first mirror into dwindling infinity.

That doesn't always work, of course. Often the video images are merely static or banal. At intermission I questioned whether they were worth the trouble. But in Act 2, either the two cameramen became more adventurous, the action became more frantic (certainly true) or I started noticing more wit in how the video images commented on the live action (also true).

Notice that I refuse to call the video "live" -- it's the actors who are live. But the video images fracture perspective. …

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