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Room Service

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(from left) Ryan Patrick McFarland, James Masciovecchio and Justin Fortunato in the Playhouse Conservatory's Room Service - COURTESY OF DREW YENCHAK
  • Courtesy of Drew Yenchak
  • (from left) Ryan Patrick McFarland, James Masciovecchio and Justin Fortunato in the Playhouse Conservatory's Room Service

With Broadway ticket prices firmly entrenched in the stratosphere, the sketchy days of Broadway's past are gone. The commercial theater has been standardized, Disneyfied and neutralized, and there's no room for legendary, outsized impresarios like David Merrick, Max Gordon, the Shuberts or George Abbott -- men who, through sheer force of personality, could get a show opened on Broadway.

The 1937 comedy Room Service, written by John Murray and Allen Boretz, is a valentine to the theater and theatrical producers of that past. The "hero," Gordon Miller, is trying to mount a new show, titled Godspeed, and having a hell of a time doing it. Broke, as usual, Miller and company hole up in a hotel suite that they can't leave because they can't pay the bill, and where they can't stay because the manager is threatening legal action.

Meanwhile, the author of Godspeed arrives in New York for the rehearsal; backers appear and vanish; and doctors, nurses, waiters, collection agents and who knows who else barrel through the play until it ends in faked death, theatrical ruin and show-biz triumph. (It shouldn't be too much of a surprise to hear that the play was turned into a movie starring the Marx Brothers.)

While the whole thing may not be long on logic, it's got a big, fat selection of jokes and gags all done up as a fast-moving farce. Perhaps the funniest joke is the play-within-the-play: Though we never see Godspeed, it turns out to concern a Polish miner -- in a long-winded historic pageant of jingoistic American iconography with a cast of 22! Surely Murray and Boretz are having their biggest laugh making Godspeed a hit.

The Point Park University Conservatory Theatre Company production pulls out all the stops, and the forceful direction of Rich Keitel meets the play head-on. Keitel has the insight and theatrical sense to know the exact playing style required by the script, and has done miracle work forging this solid student company into a cohesive whole. The work of Justin Fortunato, Jonathan Rooney and Ryan Patrick McFarland wouldn't be nearly as successful as it is, were it not for the fully grounded performances of those around them.

With special mention of Joan Markert's period-defining costumes and Andrew Homyak's nicely detailed multi-level set, I happily close with a strong recommendation to go see Room Service.

 

Room Service continues through Sun., Jan. 31. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. 412-621-4445 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com

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