Chicago Theater Review: THE UPSTAIRS CONCIERGE (Goodman Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on April 7, 2015

in Theater-Chicago

ENERGY IS NEVER ENOUGH

Nothing is sadder than a forced farce. Or phonier than chases without consequences. Famed for his frenetic The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (a comedy about wrestling that reduced sophisticated audiences to howling W.W.F. partisans), Kristoffer Diaz has penned a much lamer world premiere for Goodman Theatre than his sensational triumph at Victory Gardens Theater. You’d think short would be fun–but it takes seventy very long minutes for The Upstairs Concierge to go from implausible to absurd to ridiculous to forgettable. Alas, along the way, KJ Sanchez’ mindlessly manic staging doesn’t offer hilarious.

Tawny Newsome (Ella Elizondo) and Sandra Delgado (Shivery Delicious)

The cumulatively stupid setting is Chicago’s new boutique hotel, the Hotelman Arms (billed as “Your New Family Home”). Sucking up to the 1% (“We cater to the catered to”) and broadly mismanaged by husband-and-wife owners (Cedric Young and Mia Park), this celebrity hostelry carries a contradiction conveniently essential for farce: There are no locks on the residents’ rooms (even though it prides itself on protecting the privacy and anonymity of its exclusive guests). The title character Ella Elizondo (Tawny Newsome) works overtime to keep the V.I.P.s (each of whom is the “most important guest”) from intermingling. She fails and we lose. (This botch job couldn’t be less funny if they never met.) Some identities are meant to be mistaken.

Tawny Newsome (Ella Elizondo) and Alejandra Escalante (Rebecca Oaxaca) in The Upstairs Concierge by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by KJ Sanchez at Goodman Theatre.

The crazies keep colliding, repeatedly and moronically as staff and clientele intermingle for reasons not worth the dreary details. Rampaging and screaming all over Todd Rosenthal’s gorgeous prairie-style lobby and upstairs are the usual idiots (though, unlike a functioning farce, they have nothing to hide or to lose). Mostly related to our national pastime (specifically the Astros, Cubs, Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees), the silly stereotypes are a dweebish recruiter (Travis Turner), another MLB agent (Theo Allyn), a novelist looking for inspiration (Sandra Delgado) and stalked by a very literal bellhop (Gabriel Ruiz), a blogger critic (Jose Antonio Garcia) being pointlessly pursued by the proprietress, and Rebecca Oaxaca, a YouTube video maven sought for signing (Alejandra Escalante). At one point they all end up wearing white bath robes (repeatedly referred to as polar bear costumes) for reasons no one should ever want to know.

Alejandra Escalante (Rebecca Oaxaca) and Travis Turner (Astros Guy) in The Upstairs Concierge by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by KJ Sanchez at Goodman Theatre.

You need a flow chart to figure out what fresh new hell approaches but a brain will only spoil the mediocrity. By the merciful end, harried Ella escapes the unmerry mayhem and this bogus “family” with a newly emancipated Rebecca. Pathetically, it’s an outcome as unsought by plot or audience as any of the arbitrary anarchy that rules this roost. Crude and clumsy, The Upstairs Concierge is failed Feydeau. Worse, it feels foolishly childish, as in jejune, sophomoric, and infantile but never innocent. At least the three glass doors slam well.

Tawny Newsome (Ella Elizondo) and José Antonio Garcia (BB) in The Upstairs Concierge by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by KJ Sanchez at Goodman Theatre.

Newsome courts embarrassing excess as the trouble-shooting, damage-controlling title character, busy putting out false fires right and left. Sadly, even if Goodman’s messy one-act utterly fails as farce, it might have worked as a satire of our soul-shrinking obsession with the care and feeding of notoriety. But Diaz would rather caricature than criticize, aping Moliere while missing any meaning. Well, at least we didn’t meet the downstairs concierge…

John Stokvis (Kaz) and Alejandra Escalante (Rebecca Oaxaca) in The Upstairs Concierge by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by KJ Sanchez at Goodman Theatre.

photos by Liz Lauren

Theo Allyn (Mark Merriman) and Tawny Newsome (Ella Elizondo) in The Upstairs Concierge by Kristoffer Diaz, directed by KJ Sanchez at Goodman Theatre.

The Upstairs Concierge
Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre, 170 North Dearborn
ends on April 26, 2015
for tickets, call 312.443.3800 or visit Goodman

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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