Also see Fred's review of Moonchildren
With Robert Falls directing, Steven Weber (whom I recall best for his crackling work on television's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" a few years ago) plays Kenneth Hoyle. His first segment, taking place in Tangier, Morocco, finds this vice president of a multi-national corporation speaking of his methodology in firing employees. His company has sold baby formula, which is not healthful when combined with water, to third world countries. "60 Minutes" has already taken the company to task. Ken drinks dry martinis and makes reference to his wife, not in the picture. Weber is slick, slimy, suave and completely unsympathetic. On the very night I saw him, he was a tad off his best formstill very effective.
Cut to the impressive Maura Tierney in the part two which finds her in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. As Barbara Hoyle, Tierney (noted for "ER" on television) has been emotionally wounded. Recovering strength and resiliency, she mentions her days with Ken as Peace Corps volunteers. She alludes to a senseless killing of their son in Brazil some time back. Barbara is delivering a speech to other wives of executive types. She is blunt and specific when speaking of Ken. The "Be Careful" talk warns women of potentially impossible circumstances. "You are going to have dinner with some awful people," she says. And later, "Your husband's mission is not your mission," she advises.
Weber's Kenneth Hoyle is in Oaxaca, Mexico, for the play's conclusion. He and Barbara honeymooned here a seeming lifetime ago. Barbara's speech has precipitated a fall from stature for Ken. He has lost his shine, is more basic or even primal. So carried away was he with himself that Ken could never have prognosticated such a turn. His name once was Marcus Hershkovitz and he gave up that identity long ago. Now, it appears that Ken Hoyle will be searching for something or someone.
This is one of Baitz's early plays. A talented playwright, he has also written for TV. Three Hotels, set in 1991, is quite contemporary. Greed and avarice have not vanished from the earth. Corporate honchos continue to accumulate material wealth. People living in nations which are "developing" are caught within impoverished situations and remain victims. Women, who are wives of power-hungry men, try to remember younger and more idealistic versions of these individuals they once married.
Weber, early on, wears Ken's hostility and drive to ascend (and become president of the corporation) most physically. But he appears cool and in control, even as he speaks of "manufactured thugishness," part of his current job description. He is boastful: "I'm good at firing people is what they say." Tierney's vulnerability is not to be equated with weakness. To be certain, she is deeply hurting. She has plenty of drive and is determined to coax others so they will not be similarly disconsolate.
Delivered as three monologues, Three Hotels does not feel in any way fragmentary. The pieces fit neatly together. About money, politics, personal relationship, and, finally, loss of family member and of love, the play is acutely relevant. One wishes that Tierney were somehow given more time on stage; not possible, though, within the construct of this script.
Three Hotels continues on the main stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts through July 24th. For ticket information, call (413) 597-3400 or visit www.wtfestival.org.
- Fred Sokol