Last updated August 28th 2016
Hotel Rendezvous is a sweet confection, artfully composed. Directed by Udi Ben Moshe, the play is based on George Feydeau’s L’Hotel du Libre-Echange, translated into Hebrew by Eli Bijaoui in a stage version by Eli Bijaoui and Udi Ben Moshe. French playwright Feydeau (1862 – 1921) is known for his farces, and considered by some to be a precursor of absurdist theatre. The comic aspect of his works often hinges on complicated plots replete with misunderstandings, coincidences, near-misses and mistaken identities – all very much in evidence here. Much of the humor also relies on social conventions, and the amusing (or alternatively – revolting) discrepancy between appearances and the truth.
Hotel Rendezvous is set in Paris in the late 19th century, and features Shmuel Vilojny as Pinglet, a middle-aged contractor who craves an illicit embrace with Marcelle (Roni Hadar) the lovely young wife of his partner, the architect Paillardin (Micha Selektar). Vilojny excels in this role. There is an endearing innocence about his demeanor, a sincere tone of injury in his voice as he suffers, and hilarious movement language that annuls any criticism of the character’s less than scrupulous behavior and has one, if not actively rooting for him, then certainly laughing at his antics and misadventures.
The jaded 21st century viewer may find some of the humor falls flat, as it relies on conventional modes of perception that many of us no longer share, such as the character of Angelique (Anat Waxman), Pinglet’s wife, who (naturally) after twenty-odd years of marriage has lost her appeal (while her man miraculously remains stunningly attractive?) and has become rather a harridan with an obnoxiously shrill voice. Waxman is very funny in this exaggerated role, but I suspect that this aspect of the play might not be as amusing for contemporary audiences as it might have been at the 1894 premiere of the original in Paris.
Yet when the play focuses on other social conventions, one finds that plus ça change… and the critique of hypocrisy is just as relevant today. One of the most hilarious scenes is when the Pinglet’s dear friend Mathieu (Nadav Assulin) arrives for a surprise visit with his three daughters, and French manners and hospitality are put to the test. Mathieu is a wonderfully absurd character and his daughters are tremendously entertaining as they show off their talents. All these characters are more will come into play as the plot thickens. The more implausible and absurd the complications, coincidences and sheer zaniness, the funnier it gets.
The costumes suggest the period in a light-hearted manner, I particularly enjoyed the bellhop chic. The lighting and set design work very well together to evoke the place and period without resorting to realistic re-creations of home and hotel, thus giving the work as a whole a light, fun, feel.
(L’Hotel du Libre-Echange) by Georges Feydeau with Maurice Desvallieres
Hebrew version: Eli Bijaoui; Stage version: Eli Bijaoui and Udi Ben Moshe; Directed by Udi Ben Moshe; Music: Keren Peles; Set: Lily Ben Nachshon; Costumes: Oren Dar; Lighting: Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi); Music direction and programming: Ohad Ben-Avi; Cast: Shmuel Volojny (Pinglet, Contractor), Anat Waxman (Angelique, his wife), Micha Selektar (Paillardin, Architect), Ronit Hadar (Marcelle his wife), Yuval Segal (Maxime, his nephew), Neta Plotnik (Victoire, the Pinglet’s maid), Nadav Assulin (Matthieu, a friend of the Pinglet’s), Suzanna Papian (Violette, Matthieu’s daughter), Yarden Levitan (Ninette, Matthieu’s daughter), Liat Stern (Lissette, Matthieu’s daughter), Rubi Moscovitch (Bastien, Hotelier), Shlomi Avraham (Bobo, hotel employee), Doron Zafrir (Le Commissaire), Ori Smama (Porter, Policeman), Ariel Kurt (Policeman).