THE HOTHOUSE, Saint Ed Theatre Company, at the Chopin Theatre. A hothouse is of course an artificially fecund environment for plants. But the term may also refer to any isolated community deteriorating under conditions of unendurable tension--say, for example, a government on the brink of revolution. The sanatorium over which the weary Dr. Root presides in Harold Pinter's The Hothouse is all of these, and on one fatal Christmas Day suffers the fate of such communities.
The play was written more than 20 years before its premiere in 1980. The reason for its long sojourn in the trunk becomes apparent in the second act: action that should progress inexorably toward the inevitable periodically stalls in moments of empty words and muddy motives. The Saint Ed Theatre Company, making its debut, shoulders this burdensome text with the workmanly skill to be expected of DePaul Theatre School graduates. Director Sean Gunn searches the overwritten dialogue for subtext, and his cast--led by Valentine Miele in a broad, scenery-chomping performance as the power-heavy Root, with strong support from Lee Kirk as a sinister security guard and Nate Biddick as an unfeeling staff physician--portray their shallow archetypes with disciplined energy and deft if sometimes affected phrasing.
The Saint Ed company gives every appearance of knowing what it's doing--though only time, of course, will tell.
--Mary Shen Barnidge