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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Hotel Plays
Grange Holborn Hotel  Autumn 2012; Langham Hotel Spring 2014

(The 2014 run replaced one of the plays and some cast members.)

Since Tennessee Williams's death three decades ago a number of unproduced and unpublished plays have been drawn out of his files. None is a masterpiece, and few have done much to enhance his reputation, but all are of interest if only for the light they shine on his more familiar major works. 

These three short plays written in the 1970s, and all set in hotel rooms, all bear the unmistakeable signs of Williams's style in decline, as familiar territory is covered with some grace and poetic facility but without much to say that the playwright hadn't said more successfully before. 

'Green Eyes' finds a couple in a New Orleans hotel the morning after what we learn was a too-quick marriage, as they discover how little they know, and how little they actually like each other. There's a little more open obscenity than Williams might have used twenty years earlier, and some awkwardly inserted references to Viet Nam, but the image of a man and woman bound by sexual need and little more is a familiar one, perhaps most resembling Cat On A Hot Tin Roof or Vieux Carre. 

But this version is more of a sketch for a play and characters than a fully developed vision, and you can almost spot the moment the playwright realised he had no place to go with them and abandoned it. 

'The Travelling Companion' has a similar given-up-on feel as one of several attempts to write plays about himself as an ageing and perhaps over-the-hill writer dependent on the kindness of strangers. As Williams did in real life, the writer in this short play needs a younger man – preferably a friend or acolyte but if need be a pick-up – to accompany him on his constant travels. 

Here his current new hire feigns outrage at the discovery that he is expected to share his patron's bed, but the older man, who's been through this charade before, patiently works his way toward a small victory. A touching and insightful self-portrait, the piece never really transcends reportage into art. 

'Sunburst', the shortest and lightest of the three pieces, is also the most successful. Though little more than an extended revue sketch or joke, it does convey the warm humour that characterised some of Williams's earlier works, as an elderly former actress is terrorised by thieves who prove so comically inept that she doesn't have to be particularly bright herself to defeat them. 

The brevity of the three plays doesn't allow too much opportunity for the actors, though John Guerrasio as the older man in the second and Carol Macready as the intended victim in the third are most successful. 

This production is staged in an actual hotel, with the audience led from floor to floor to be flies on the wall in three separate rooms. It's a gimmick that proves of no special value beyond its own novelty, as whatever atmosphere and authenticity the settings generate could easily have been matched on a stage.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  The Hotel Plays - Grange Holborn Hotel 2012

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