Review: In "Hotel Good Luck," We Shouldn't Check Out Just Because We'll All Leave

 Hotel Good Luck

Written by Alejandro Ricaño

Translated by Jacqueline Bixler

Directed by Samuel Buggeln

Co-presented by The Cherry Artists' Collective and New Ohio Theatre via YouTube

February 12-20, 2021

Seth Soulstein and Desmond Bratton (background). Courtesy Emily Owens PR
It's never a bad time, exactly, to reckon with mortality, but perhaps now is a better time than some, as suggested by the remarkable final image of The Cherry Artists' Collective and New Ohio Theatre's co-production of Hotel Good Luck, from award-winning Mexican playwright Alejandro Ricaño (translated by Jacqueline Bixler). This silent concluding shot movingly uses the space of Ithaca's State Theatre itself to reflect simultaneously the profound sense of loss and absence endemic to the past year and the themes of this play's wry, intermittently absurdist, melancholic journey towards existential consolation.

Hotel Good Luck tells its dimension-hopping story using only two actors. We begin with Bobby (Seth Soulstein) recounting the story on his amateur radio show of a man who arrived at customs with a previously stamped passport from a country that doesn't exist (one wonders, given the rest of the play, whether this country bears an affinity with Hamlet's undiscovered one). After some morbidly amusing family history, Bobby tells of the death of superbly named Miller, the melancholic dog, an incident that leads him to discover that his erstwhile girlfriend, Lily, is with someone else now. But when Bobby steps through a beckoning refrigerator in a dream, he finds himself emerging from the titular hotel and Miller alive again. Bobby doesn't know if he is even awake, much less what is going on, but his best friend and psychoanalyst, Larry (Desmond Bratton) has some multiverse-oriented ideas.
Desmond Bratton and Seth Soulstein. Courtesy Emily Owens PR
Lily and the other significant characters aside from Larry, Bobby's estranged parents, come to us only through Bobby's narrative, and therefore through Soulstein's excellent performance, which adeptly invests us in these unseen others as much as in Bobby. Bratton delivers some of the most purely comedic moments in the production (which is not to say that he doesn't also bring emotional weight to Larry when eventually called to), as well as contributing his own original live accompaniment on the double bass. The very small cast also allows the camera significant freedom to move with and around Bobby, which lends a sense of momentum as well as of intimacy to the show. This visual choreography, along with a minimalist set that looks like it could just be the stage being used for storage between shows, is occasionally augmented with some green screen projection or simple video effects such as a wash out when Bobby passes through the (or should we say a?) fridge.

The irony and coincidence that recur throughout the play highlight that we never know when or why death will come, including by spontaneous human combustion. The question then becomes how we live, or fail to live, with the ever-present possibility of death for ourselves and those around us. Is it enough to know, as Bobby's father says, that we (re)turn to earth so that something else can grow? In the knowledge that we are only here for, in Bobby's words, a moment, can motivation outweigh fear? Hotel Good Luck explores these questions through repetitions that echo and are echoed by Bobby and Larry's conversation about reincarnation and that give the play the structure of a poem or a piece of music, if not also of the cycle of life and death.

Hotel Good Luck: Five stars; would book again.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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