Three Hotels | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Three Hotels, Apple Tree Theatre.

It's a risk for Apple Tree to produce this moral wake-up call at a time when many theaters are pacifying their subscribers with summer fluff. Three Hotels is a powerful protest play that asks Americans to take responsibility for their bad acts and not just credit (often undeserved) for their good ones.

The risk is fully rewarded in Gary Griffin's beautifully orchestrated staging of these three monologues by Jon Robin Baitz (author of The Film Society and The Substance of Fire): a broken businessman and his disillusioned wife speak from three different hotel rooms in three different countries, chronicling the corruption and redemption of their lives. Kenneth Hoyle is an amoral marketer of baby-food formula to undeveloped countries, and Barbara is his reluctant helpmate. Baitz selects the moments when the thuggish husband, speaking to a WHO conference, and the repressed wife, addressing fellow corporate wives on how to cope with foreigners, give themselves away in order to find themselves.

As performed by real-life husband-and-wife team David Darlow and Kristine Thatcher, Baitz's script haunts and stirs. Darlow, all but imitating a spider as Kenneth relates his delight in firing underlings, slowly (and partially) redeems his character, who strongly recalls Arthur Miller's corporate casualties. Thatcher stunningly plays Barbara's despair off against her decency. John Murbach's junkyard set, which like Louise Nevelson's work is both elaborately cluttered and elaborately organized, brilliantly symbolizes the detritus of a poor country as seen from a rich hotel.

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