Theater Review: Suburban Motel

If the line, “Let’s make six naked sex movies and we’ll talk about it,” does not make you think of a night at Brooklyn College, think again — until Oct. 21, that’s a sentence that shall ring through the auditorium of Whitman stage as part of the Theater Department’s first show of the season.

The piece, Suburban Motel by George F. Walker, features two one-act plays of the original collection of 6 plays by the same title. “Adult Entertainment,” and “Featuring Loretta,” both dark and gritty comedies, take place in a motel room. Both pieces involve an intimate cast of four and, aside from BFA actress Fiona Criddle (Sophie in “Featuring Loretta”), is all MFA actors. The production, directed by Mary Beth Easley; and designed by the team of Scott Mancha (set); Nikki Cammack, Angelica Borrero (costumes); Tsubasa Kamei (lighting); and Mark Bruckner (sound and video), is beautifully put together. Overall, the performance feels highly polished and largely succeeds in allowing the audience a night of dark, biting comedy.

The intimate setting allows for a true immersion — as the show begins, a large purple sign with the word “Motel” in neon red letters blazes in the darkness.

Indeed, “intimate,” aptly describes the plays — both deal, in one way or another, with the duality of sex and business. “Adult Entertainment,” focuses on two rogue cops, Max (Jonny Maldonado) and Donny (Jeremy Ping), Max’s lover, lawyer Jayne (Andrea Aranguren) and Donny’s innocent wife, Pam (Sarah Poleshuck) as they fight to retain their morals during an important court case.

Jeremy Ping’s humorous timing, booming voice, and rueful laugh shine in “Adult Entertainment.” Mr. Ping’s strong presence brought Donny’s character to life, protecting him from the easily pigeonholed role of “funny side-kick,” that can often happen in comedies and police procedurals.

Another strength of the piece is the stage chemistry between Mr. Ping and Ms. Poleshuck. Donny and Pam are a couple whose relationship slowly crashes around them, and the two struggle to maintain their individual integrity, largely for their daughter Emma. Ms. Poleshuck took the challenge of playing an urban, complicated woman with gusto, and it was a pleasure to watch her perform a role so different from some of her previous work at Brooklyn College. A dream sequence featuring Pam, dressed in revealing clothes, proves one of the most memorable scenes of the night — both comically, and because of its technical effects.

Mr. Maldonado performs Max strongly as well. A character with bite and strong opinions, Maldonado’s character both clashes and gels with Ms. Aranguren’s portrayal of Jayne.

Ms. Aranguren’s strength lies in her physicality and voice — a character of much conflict, Jayne is captivating and strong. Though Ms. Aranguren occasionally tripped through some lines, her heart and passion in her role makes up for any mistakes. The strong bonds between the actors were obvious, as all the characters seemed developed, realistic, and comfortable.

The second act of the night, “Featuring Loretta,” included performances by Keelie A. Sheridan (Loretta), Fiona Criddle (Sophie), Aaron Mednick (Dave), and Patrick McCormick (Michael) as a group of people brought together by circumstance and finance. Loretta, a guest in a hotel, spends most of the play trying to maintain autonomy and to make a quick buck.

The highlights of the “Featuring Loretta,” were beautifully choreographed fights between Dave and Michael, both hilarious and well done thanks to violence director Robert Tuftee. The performance overall stood out as more hi-jinxed and slapstick than “Adult Entertainment,” and hilarity definitely ensues.

Mr. Mednick and Mr. McCormick have wonderful interactions throughout the show, and their connection brings a lot of strength and energy to the piece. Mr. Mednick holds strongly to his character, and Mr. McCormick performs well — though, at times, seeming a bit shy or not fully committed to his character. The costuming for both men is wonderfully done as well.

Mrs. Sheridan highlights a determined and independent Loretta who holds only to her own standards, and was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The captivating stage chemistry between Mrs. Sheridan and Ms. Criddle as two lost American women is a strong draw of the entirenight.

Full of depth and, at the same time, adorable and sympathetic, Ms. Criddle’s Sophie succeeds in being more than just a comedic girl with a Russian accent.

A night at Suburban Motel will cost seven dollars, but it proves as one of the most memorable nights a person could have in a motel, and certainly one worth experiencing.

Performances of Suburban Motel take place October 12-14: Friday – Saturday at 7:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM and October 18-21: Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM at the Whitman Theater on the Brooklyn College campus, Campus Road between Hillel Place and Avenue H, Brooklyn, NY (Flatbush Avenue stop on the 2 and 5 trains). General admission: $15, Seniors: $12, Students: $7. For reservations please call (718) 951-4500 or please visit the Department of Theater web page at http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater.

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