Review: ‘A Hotel on Marvin Gardens’

Smart interplay of character marks "A Hotel on Marvin Gardens," Nagle Jackson's comic riff on savagery in the corporate world. Set in a high-tech lodge on a private island in Long Island Sound, the play revolves around an annual April Fool's day game of Monopoly. As the banter becomes more ironic and perilous, the game becomes a symbol of the larger power plays among the characters.

Smart interplay of character marks “A Hotel on Marvin Gardens,” Nagle Jackson’s comic riff on savagery in the corporate world. Set in a high-tech lodge on a private island in Long Island Sound, the play revolves around an annual April Fool’s day game of Monopoly. As the banter becomes more ironic and perilous, the game becomes a symbol of the larger power plays among the characters.

The hostess is K.C., charming at first glance, and blessed with a steel-trap mind. She is the personification of her magazine, aptly entitled Me, and sets her cap for a win. Bo, the publisher, is heir to unfathomable wealth. They await the managing editor, who is bringing an unknown guest.

The mystery guest turns out to be Erna, Me’s food critic. On the ditzy side, she’s nevertheless full of surprises, while Henry, the Me m.e., is in the middle of an early-onset midlife crisis (he’s barely into his 30s).

The comfortable mix is upended at the end of the first act, when Rose, a teacher with a salty vocabulary, knocks at the door in desperation, having just escaped an attacker. Henry is smitten by the novelty of meeting someone from another (lower) class; K.C. is appalled; Bo is intrigued.

Jackson’s sparkling dialogue is incisively paced by the author, who serves as the play’s director. He gets surprising entertainment value out of a familiar game, filling a slender frame with valid psychological insight. Annette Held has a free-wheeling romp as Erna, Nance Williamson is beautiful and dramatically strong as K.C., John Hutton is a relaxed Bo, in contrast with Sam Gregory’s tightly wound Henry, and Lauren Best is vulnerable as Rose.

Michael Ganio’s in-the-round set exudes comfort and class, and Don Darnutzer’s lighting is sensitive to changing times of day.

A Hotel on Marvin Gardens

(COMEDY; DENVER CENTER THEATER/SPACE THEATER; 500 SEATS; $ 36)

Production

DENVER, Colo. A Denver Center Theater presentation of a play in two acts written and directed by Nagle Jackson. Sets and costumes, Michael Ganio.

Crew

Lighting, Don Darnutzer; sound, Matthew C. Swartz. Artistic director, Donovan Marley. Opened, reviewed Sept. 30, 1999. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

With

Erna ..... Annette Helde K.C. ..... Nance Williamson Bo ..... John Hutton Henry ..... Sam Gregory Rose .....Lauren Best
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