A LITTLE HOTEL ON THE SIDE Farce by Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres, translated by John Mortimer from Hotel du Libre Echange.' Directed by Tom Moore. At the Belasco Theatre through March 1.
FOR the second production of its inaugural season, the National Actors Theatre has turned its talents and attention from the Salem witch trials of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" to the frivolous trivialities of Feydeau farce.
"A Little Hotel on the Side" is a riotous turn-of-the-century romp in which the new company founded and led by Tony Randall demonstrates its versatility.
John Mortimer, who translated the present version of the play by Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres, describes it as "a tragedy played at about a 120 revolutions per minute."
Farce inevitably turns tragedy inside out. This one is no exception. It tells how Benoit Pinglet (Mr. Randall), a building contractor, schemes to lure the wife of his architect friend to the Hotel Good Night for an illicit rendezvous. How Pinglet is foiled becomes the substance (if such it can be called) of the ensuing giddy convolutions.
Randall and company exploit the Feydeauisms down to the last giggle. The cast plays broadly to the audience. In the spirit of the occasion, the actors mug, take pratfalls, telegraph laughs - but so adroitly that Western Union shouldn't complain.
They occasionally indulge in silly walks that even John Cleese might not scorn. Director Tom Moore climaxes Act I with a choreographed free-for-all.
Among those dedicating themselves to the extravagant silliness are Lynn Redgrave as Pinglet's harridan of a wife, Maryann Plunkett as the skittish Marcelle, and Bruce Katzman (on this particular evening) as her architect husband. Master farceur Paxton Whitehead does a brilliant set piece as a stuttering visitor with a quartet of small daughters.
The cast also includes Madeleine Potter as the inevitably saucy maid, Rob Lowe as the architect's callow nephew, Patrick Tull as the hotel manager, and John Fiedler as the duty-bound police chief.
David Jenkins's settings and Patricia Zipprodt's costumes enhance the air of farcical make-believe, with lighting to suit by Richard Nelson.
Larry Delinger composed the incidental Gallic airs.