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Theatre Program adapts 'Hotel Universe' to reflect modern times

Published on February 25, 2021

Theatre Program adapts 'Hotel Universe' to reflect modern times

First production of pandemic blends traditional theatre with film

Hotel Universe

The Theatre Program at Eastern Connecticut State University recently presented its first theatrical production since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Hotel Universe,” a play written by Philip Barry and originally performed in 1930, was adapted for stage and screen and directed by Theatre Professor David Pellegrini. The show is available online from Feb. 19–26, with viewers registering to view the performance from the comfort of their homes.

"Hotel Universe" features two separate casts and combines digital media with stage acting. Originally based on life in the 1930s, Pellegrini adapted the show to a modern setting, incorporating current pop-culture as well as references to the pandemic. Actors wore clear masks on stage and commented on the current situation in passing. Other signs of a modern setting included the attire, musical choices and pop culture references to such people as Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

The play opens to six friends relaxing in the sun, sporting classic summer outfits such as sundresses, board shorts, Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses on a beach in the Mexican Riviera. The group, which is visiting their friend Ann (played by Amber Houde in Cast A and Charlotte Pacheco-Sahagun in Cast B), grows tense toward the end of the trip.

Throughout the show, the cast sporadically mentions a man they saw who killed himself, with his last words being “I’m off to Africa!” As the show continues, each character confronts their own thoughts of ending their lives, and reflects on their personal traumas, such as abusive fathers and family members’ deaths, that led them to these points.

 

With the incorporation of dance breaks, musical interludes and a multi-media backdrop, the audience experiences a reinvented version of the play. As Pellegrini writes in his director’s note, Eastern transformed a show that was “originally intended to be played before a live audience, into a film. What you will see is a hybrid of film and live performance, yet another experiment for our program.”

As the characters navigate their thoughts of suicide, relationships and recovery, their traumas are revisited through Ann’s ill father (played by Christian Fronckowiak), who serves the role of those in their life that caused each character pain. Acting out moments from their past, the group begins to heal, and pushes aside the thoughts of ending their lives.

 Included in the post-production and filming process was Brian Day, professor of film studies, who added a new layer to the show, including a film overlap during a fight scene between the male characters. The use of video projection, run by Theatre Professor Kristen Morgan, added backdrops such as videos of a man jumping into water, a sunset and a galaxy during the end of the show. Outside of the cast, other students involved with the production worked on jobs such as costume and scene production, lighting and sound.

Written by Molly Boucher

Categories: New Media, Theatre