Alejandro Rodriguez, Danielle Slavick and Leah Karpel in Residence.
Photo by Bill Brymer.
By Laura Jacqmin
Directed by Hal Brooks
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
A woman, Maggie, (Danielle Slavick) who is a sales representative for a medical supply company checks in to a long-term residential hotel in Temp, Arizona for a month-long stay. Right away she establishes an uneasy sort of alliance with two hotel employees, Bobby (Alexandro Rodriguez) and Theresa (Leah Karpel). This curious triangle of people in transition forms the nucleus of Laura Jacqmin’s Residence, a play about the ephemerality of human existence.
Maggie’s sales trip separates her from her husband, Ben (Avery Glymph) and 24-month old baby, but she seems curiously distant from them, as emphasized in Skype sessions with Ben. Her growing attachment to Bobby reinforces her desperation and disaffectedness, and it takes awhile to get a handle on her character. The triviality of Theresa’s ambition as a “Manager Trainee” for the hotel makes for good comic fodder and defines her connection with Bobby, who is coping with his own personal difficulties with an ex-girlfriend (Amelia Workman) who has also recently given birth to Bobby’s child.
There is a good deal of humor, most of it fairly sly in its approach, although Ms. Karpel’s slightly broader comic performance plays very well and doesn’t throw the tone out of balance. In fact, her daft character is cannily employed to throw the audience off of the play’s true, more somber direction.
The deceptively simple title is used ironically – none of these characters seem comfortable or settled in this place and time, and even if they believe they are in residence, it is an illusory, fraudulent comprehension that fails to recognize the quicksand within their foundation.
The acting is subtle and driven by investigation that follows the script’s slight misdirection, so that it is difficult to predict the plot and the audience is genuinely startled at the turn of events in the final scenes. Striking but mostly unflashy (the transition to the hotel rooftop is pretty nifty) design work in sets and costumes bolster the story’s needs.
Residence is not the most memorable opening salvo I’ve experienced in the Humana Festival, but is an insightful and nuanced study of existential human conflict that mines a deep and identifiable journey into personal identity.
March 2 – April 10, 2016
Part of the 40th Humana Festival of New American Plays
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on ARTxFM/WXOX-LP, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.