Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Photo Credit: Jeff Adelberg
Tumbling forth from the fertile imagination of actor/playwright John Kuntz come the characters and situations of The Hotel Nepenthe, dovetailing, careening, doubling back and ultimately dancing with the spontaneity of kids at a party. And the $25 ticket price makes for an affordable excursion into a theatrical wonderland. Presented by the Emerging America Festival on the stage of the Wimberley, outfitted to contain the mysterious set and an 85 member audience. 
The "random events" that make up a life are never easily understood, followed, or sensibly arranged, and neither are the characters and events of The Hotel Nepenthe.  While following along might frustrate the linear minded theater-goer, this show clues us in at the start that we're in for a different kind of ride.  In the opening moments, Kuntz and company parody the warnings and advice of an airline stewardess,  asking the audience to "keep the tray table in an upright and locked position", "silence and turn off all electronic devices",  and the women gesture to the lavatories while John Kuntz himself warns us that "you better have gone before because there's no intermission".  And we're off on a flight of fancy through the corridors, rooms, taxis roads and bus rides of The Hotel Nepenthe.  Like most of John's plays, there is an overload of pop culture references, 60's and 70s television theme songs, recurring character names that may or may not signal connections, and an epilogue that anyone who knew John in the 80s and 90s ... well, any time at any party, will recognize as a thematic dance poem, a story in movement that exemplifies the joy and glee with which he entertains us and himself.
Photo Credit: David Gammons
The set is a mysterious landscape that functions as those hotel rooms and well-traveled roads along the way.  Live video gives us alternative views of both events in the foreground and on the periphery of a given scene, and the lighting creates the moods, tensions and mysteries we encounter.  Above, a faux-dropped ceiling allows for fluorescent lighting and the feel of a less-than-luxurious Hotel (despite the leopard bathrobes), and also for a rainbow (watch for it at the evening's end).  The quartet of actors is the perfect ensemble, who performed the play in it's premiere, produced by the Actors Shakespeare Ensemble in February/March 2011: Kuntz, Daniel Berger-Jones, Georgia Lyman and Marianna Basham, directed by David Gammons.  That production earned both the 2011 Elliot Norton and 2012 IRNE Awards for Outstanding New Play,  as well as the 2011 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Ensemble, and Elliot Norton Award nominations for David Gammons for Outstanding Director/Mid-Size Theater, and Marianna Basham for Outstanding Actress, Mid-Size Theater.
Presented by the Emerging America Festival, Thursday June 21 at 7:30 and 10:30, Friday June 22 at 8:00, Saturday June 23 at 2:00 and 8:00, and Sunday June 24 at 2:00.  Individual tickets ($25)and Festival Passes ($50-$85)  available at

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