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Theater review: ‘Three Hotels’ is well-acted, visually stunning

Theater review: ‘Three Hotels’ is well-acted, visually stunning

Williamstown Theatre Festival is hosting a luminous production of Jon Robin Baitz’s two-person drama

‘Three Hotels’

WHERE: Williamstown Theatre Festival, Route 2, Williamstown, Mass.

WHEN: Through July 24

HOW MUCH: $54-$50

MORE INFO: 413-597-3400, www.wtfestival.org

Williamstown Theatre Festival is hosting a luminous production of Jon Robin Baitz’s two-person drama “Three Hotels.” Directed by Robert Falls, it is both darkly disturbing and compelling.

It must be said first that the set by scenic designer Thomas Lynch is a masterpiece of movement. It takes the audience to the three hotels of the title — one in Morocco, one in St. Thomas and one in Mexico — with seamless grace. It is quite simply astounding.

Beautifully and powerfully acted by Steven Weber as Kenneth Hoyle, a corporate killer, and Maura Tierney as his wife, Barbara, it tells the story of corporative greed and its often hellish results. On a more intimate level, it is the story of a marriage, the pain we are capable of inflicting on those we love and a couple’s search for redemption.

Trio of monologues

It is told through three monologues — the actors never appear on stage together — the first being Kenneth’s. The audience learns that he works for a company that sells defective and dangerous baby formula in the Third World. The product has caused many deaths and enormous pain.

Ken informs us that his philosophy and that of the corporation is that: “Any action is defensible as long as the results are profitable.” The words are hateful to hear, and Weber creates a thoroughly hateful character. Hoyle is arrogant, vulgar and deceitful.

His wife, he tells the audience proudly, calls him the “Albert Speer” of baby formula. And, by the way, he fires corporate executives without conscience or care. To make it worse, he seems to relish his work and boasts about how good he is at it.

Secrets come out

The second monologue is Barbara’s. Tierney plays Barbara as a wounded and sometimes terrorized corporate wife. It is in her moment, supertitled “Be Careful,” that we learn what is at the heart of the play. I will not give away its secrets, but it is fair to tell you that a family trauma has shaped the couple’s life and the playwright’s sense of structure is impeccable.

Barbara finds a strength even she did not imagine in herself and allows destiny to guide her. Tierney’s performance is underplayed and as powerful as it gets.

The third monologue is Kenneth’s. He is a changed man. Kenneth is recording a long message to his mother, who is confined to a Jewish old-persons home and will not be able to understand either the English recording or its contents. However, it is important to him to explain the reason for his change of heart. Again, I will not give away the secrets of the play, but the explanation gives rise to the possibility of redemption.

Costume design by Susan Hilferty is most evocative of the moods of the characters. Lighting by James F. Ingalls is notable for its understatement. And sound by Obadiah Eaves is both haunting and lyrical.

As mentioned, this is a beautifully written text, acted superbly, and directed and designed with finesse.

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