Hub’s ‘6 Hotels’ showcases a talented quartet

Lauren Elias and Johnnie McQuarley in the Hub Theatre Company's  "6 Hotels." Photo: Hub Theatre Company

Lauren Elias and Johnnie McQuarley in the Hub Theatre Company’s “6 Hotels.” Photo: Hub Theatre Company

BOSTON — The Hub Theatre Company is closing its second season by assembling a quartet of skilled actors who portray a variety of roles in the production of Israel Horvitz’s “6 Hotels” at Club Café in Boston.

The prolific Wakefield native Horovitz has crafted a collection of six short plays, five of which take place in an unnamed Manhattan hotel, one in a war-torn Beirut hotel in 2006. Horovitz was on hand for Saturday evening’s performance, and said in a program note that the peice provides “equal amounts of comedy and drama.”
To this critic the comedic bits were the more successful. As with any such theatrical buffet, you are bound to like some of the pieces more than others. 
Co-directors Daniel Bourque and John Geoffrion’s corps of actors are both versatile and quick on their feet. Lauren Elias, Ashley Risteen, Johnnie McQuarley and Matthew Zahnzinger fit the bill, portraying 22 characters in all during the course of the evening, during which the mood will change several times.

Matthew  Zahnzinger and Johnnie McQuarley in "6 Hotels." Photo: Hub Theatre Company

Matthew Zahnzinger and Johnnie McQuarley in “6 Hotels.” Photo: Hub Theatre Company

In “Speaking of Tushy,” two strangers in a bar — a Frenchman named Jean-Philippe, played by Zahnzinger, and an American named Stanley (McQuarley) commiserate over drinks about women trouble, finding they have a lot more in common than they actually realized.
Risteen plays Stella, who gets around — there’s a good riff about “Streetcar Named Desire” here — and Elias is Veronica, and suffice it to say the men aren’t getting the best of it in their doings with both women.
In “Fiddleheads and Lovers,” two recently-rejected souls, Emma (Risteen) and Noah (McQuarley), aren’t married to each other and are trying to lay low during a night out at a fancy restaurant, but Elias steals the show as a professional waitress who “only acted until she could land a witnessing job,” detailing the oh-so-precious specials at the foodie joint.
Danger brings out the most extreme versions of ourselves. In “Beirut Rocks,” a group of four American college students, all from prestigious schools and studying abroad, are caught in the middle of the 2006 Hezbollah-Israeli war.
As they wait to be evacuated from the hotel where they have taken refuge, there is light banter between a Jewish character named Benjy, played by McQuarley, a golf nut, and Harvard student Jake (Zahnzinger). The entrance of female students Sandy (Elias) and Nasa (Risteen) ups the dramatic ante, and soon the air is rife with the possibility of violence between Benjy and the Palestinian Nasa.
“The Audition Play” is a sweet little piece featuring Risteen as Alexis, a dancer who is auditioning as she lies hilariously about her previous credits, hiding the fact that she has spent lo these many years raising her kids and not appearing on local stages.
McQuarley is Ed, the offstage voice grilling her as she keeps sinking deeper and deeper, but her spunk and sass will have you rooting for her.
“The Hotel Play” is the comedic highlight of the evening. Janice (Elias) has been in a long relationship with her boss (Zahnzinger), who unceremoniously dumps $400 on the bed to pay for the room after their latest encounter and then hurries out. Room service waiter Chad (McQuarley) enters believing Janice has been paid to be there, and the two end up sitting down and eating the dinner Aaron ordered. As they compare notes and maker assumptions about each other, the laughter builds until the denouement.
“2nd Violin” has musician Evvie (Elias) playing second fiddle, so to speak, to her fellow musician, the more accomplished Catherine (Risteen). The stuffy, pompous Russian conductor Sergei gives Zahnzinger his second good chance to show off a well-done accent, while stage manager Marvin (McQuarley), who is gay — we think — has a penchant for entering at just the wrong time.
The “lip-syncing” done by the actresses playing their instruments falls a bit flat, but the ending is cute.
Short plays are a good chance for a playwright to take some chances and stretch his or her legs. And the best part about a collection of works such as “6 Hotels” is that even if you find a piece not to your liking, the next train will be along in a few minutes and it might be something you really like.
The production values are fine given the confines and challenges of the room, but for those seated in the rear of the space, a fan/vent and noise outside a nearby entrance made hearing problematical at times during a recent performance.
The Hub Theatre Company production of “6 Hotels.” Written by Israel Horovitz, Directed by John Geoffrion and Daniel Bourque; Stage Manager, Kelly Smith; Lighting Design, Michael Clark Wonson; Set, Props, Projections, Marc Ewart; Sound and Music Design, Andrew Paul Jackson; Costume Design, Sara Tess Neuman; Fight Choreography, Johnnie McQuarley; Dialect Coach, Danny Bryck; Tap Coach, Rachel Solomon; String Instrument Coach, Andrew Paul Jackson. At Club Café through Nov. 22.