In a Holiday Inn suite high above Wichita, Kan., three industrial lubricant salesmen anxiously prepare for a client reception in which they hope to land the big deal. The venture never manifests and, unfortunately for the audience, neither does much of a play.
Fledgling playwright Roger Rueff demonstrates a facility for rapid-fire dialogue and quick one-liners but comes up lacking in plot and character. One actor sums up the problem quite precisely when he asks, “What’s the point?”
Script’s enigmatic moral overtones intrude periodically, providing brief respites from the largely sexist humor.
The sales triumvirate contrast tremendously; seasoned, calmly centered Phil (Don Took), his high-powered, hard-hitting partner Larry (Richard Doyle), and the scrupulous, devoutly Christian novice Bob (John Ellington). Each has his job: Larry to push the sale, Phil to close it, and Bob to bartend (and talk tech if necessary).
The reception’s success hangs on the clinching of a particular account, and therein lies the script’s first major weakness–its anemic conflict, which leads to a virtually non-existent climax. In spite of the flawless performances of its top-drawer cast under Steven Albrezzi’s tight, brisk direction, Rueff’s script spends two hours chasing its own tail as it pretends to examine man’s surrender of humanity in favor of functionality.
The cast plays Rueff’s characters for all they’re worth. Doyle’s tunnel-visioned desperation to secure the deal creates intense angst, a well-drawn contrast to Took’s rational control. Took’s terse philosophizing and Doyle’s constant character summarizing (if you can get past Rueff’s constant penis references) provide what meat hangs from the emaciated script.
Ellington accomplishes the difficult task of creating a wide-eyed religious optimist in a sea of sales sharks with varying degrees of success, while Art Koustik’s brief appearance gets the expected laughs.
Dwight Richard Odle’s set, brightly lit by Doc Ballard’s design is appropriately sterile.
South Coast Repertory’s commitment to the mounting of new plays is commendable, and Rueff does show potential, but “Hospitality Suite” is at best a television pilot in need of development.