The war comes home when Hollywood rivals Claudia McFadden (Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan) and Athena Sinclair (Chantal Perron) land at the Palm Beach Royale Hotel in Michael McKeever’s Suite Surrender.
That’s what Bernard Dunlop (Kevin Hare), the Palm Beach Royale’s general manager, fears at least, that total war will break out with Claudia and Athena staying in the same hotel. The two divas are at the Palm Beach Royale for a USO fundraiser, and have been given separate rooms, on separate floors, on totally opposite ends of the hotel. All good and well until Bernard realizes that, through some mix up, Claudia and Athena are booked to stay in the same room, the presidential suite.
Trying to keep the two singers out of each other’s sight is a Herculean task, one that drives Bernard nearly mad. To make matters worse, the Navy is run amok in the hotel, setting ‘small’ fires in the lobby among other mischief. The USO’s fundraiser sponsor Mrs. Everett P. Osgood (Susan Johnston-Collins) tells Bernard to let the boys be, that they’re just blowing off steam. Not exactly what Bernard wants to hear, especially when bumbling bellhops Francis (Adrian Sherpherd) and Otis (Scott Olynek) are doing little to help the situation.
Suite Surrender is a breezy comedy of errors that demands a lightning-fast pace, and director J. Sean Elliott brings exactly that and more to this excellent Stage West production. Once all the pieces fall in place, the show takes off like a fighter jet and delivers non-stop laughs. In fact, the energy is so overwhelming that the set, designed by David Smith, wobbles almost every time a door is shut.
The set has four doors: two for the bedroom, one for the closet, and then the entrance door. As the show’s stakes escalate higher and higher, so does the movement on stage. The actors run in and out of the doors, shutting the doors firmly behind them. The first mishap comes when Hare’s Bernard breaks the closet door, with an unconscious Dora Del Rio (Natascha Girgis) behind it, taking the door off some hinges. The second mishap, one of the bedroom doors is shut and causes drinking glasses to fall high from the adjacent shelf, resulting in broken glass onstage. Very strange that no one thought to better secure the glasses given the onstage action.
The ensemble deals with the mishaps very well, a testament to their talent. Unfazed, the ensemble continue delivering superb performances. Tarhan and Perron are exquisite in their respective roles, each a force to be reckoned with. Perron’s man-hungry Athena pulls attention everywhere she goes with her sultry voice, while Tarhan’s Claudia commands attention with her booming voice and dominating presence. Trevor Rueger’s meek Mr.Pippet, Claudia’s assistant, is a hilarious contrast to Tarhan’s character. (Tarhan, Sherpherd, and Rueger share a great “this is not what it looks like” moment). Hare plays Bernard, the anchor to all the madness, with great delight as he descends further and further into desperation.
Olynek and Sherperd make a great pair together, and always shine in their scenes. Athena’s assistant Murphy is played with a sweet demeanor by Charlie Gould, an actress with great facial expressions. And let’s not forget about the cute dog who plays Mr. Boodles, barks and other dog noises provided by sound designer Michael Gesy, and behaves without issue.
McKeever’s Suite Surrender is a real gut buster. Audiences looking for an uproarious evening at the theatre will not want to miss its run at Stage West. Under Elliott’s direction, the ensemble deliver a whirlwind experience where big, hearty laughs escalate to the kind of laughs that leave people gasping for air.
Stage West’s production of Michael McKeever’s Suite Surrender runs Feb 12 – April 17.
For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: http://stagewestcalgary.com/suite-surrender/