The Hotel Nepenthe is Nothing Short of Bewitching

By Mary Tinti

June 22, 2012

Photo Credit: John Kuntz photographed by J. Stratton McCrady

BOSTON - If Thursday evening’s staging of the Elliot Norton award winning The Hotel Nepenthe is any indication, this year’s Emerging America Festival, according to the group’s website, “will bring together some of the country’s most promising performers, writers, companies, and directors for a weekend filled with energy, imagination, creativity, and drama” and is sure to be a big, bewitching wow. That’s no small statement, especially considering the four day, city-wide festival happens to coincide with the arrival of industry professionals in town for this year’s Theatre Communications Group conference. Welcome to Boston, theatre lovers, where groundbreaking playwriting and performances abound!

Written by John Kuntz, The Hotel Nepenthe is about as trippy, witty, snappy, funny, and creepy a production as you could hope to find. At its core, the play tells the story of several different characters that orbit the Hotel Nepenthe (named by Kuntz for the anti-depressant-like potion popular in ancient Greek literature). Some work or have stayed at the hotel, others just know of its infamous reputation. And yet all of these disparate personalities (a politician, his wife, and a prostitute; a bellhop and his sister; a rental car agency worker, a bus driver, and a cabbie; a mourning mother and a fairy godmother…) are connected to one another in ways both elusive and confounding.

Kuntz’s dialogue is incredibly, pleasurably smart; David R. Gammons’ direction, set, and costume designs make the many micro-scenes feel related but discrete; and Bill Barclay’s original sound effects underscore the hilarious, schizophrenic energy pulsing through this play. Actors Marianna Bassham, Daniel Berger-Jones, Georgia Lyman, and Kuntz, himself, are among the most versatile and gifted I’ve ever seen. Playing over three characters each, they were at all times believable and enthralling, even if there were parts of the overall script that seemed a bit inconclusive and unresolved. The unsewn loose ends weren’t terribly bothersome, though, as they somehow complemented the charming “Twilight Zone” aura present throughout the production.

With frequent references to beloved American sitcoms (like “Bewitched,” “The Odd Couple,” “One Day at A Time,” and “The Jeffersons,” etc.) and Starland Vocal Band’s hit song, “Afternoon Delight” (an inclusion sure to touch a special place in the hearts of all “Arrested Development” fans) The Hotel Nepenthe is a wild and wonderful ride well worth taking this weekend. Treat yourselves to some great local theatre and experience Emerging America, if you can.

Huntington Theatre Company presents the Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s production of The Hotel Nepenthe
Written by John Kuntz, Directed by David R. Gammons
Thursday 6/21 at 7:30PM and 10:30PM, Friday 6/22 at 8PM
Saturday 6/23 at 2PM and 8PM, Sunday 6/24 at 2PM


About the Author
Mary Tinti Mary Tinti
Mary is a Koch Curatorial Fellow at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. On her blog, Dress For Sports, she says, "I love innovative public art, creative design, and unique intersections of architecture, sculpture, and installation.  And I love stumbling upon cool collisions of art and everyday life." Mary has a Ph.D. in art history from Rutgers University.


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