On February 11, Catastrophic Theatre will open their 2011 season with Richard Foreman's Paradise Hotel, a show, they say, that's been a long time coming. Foreman's unique approach to drama has attracted the Catastrophic team since their early days as Infernal Bridegroom Productions, and co-directors Greg Dean and Art Attack's own Troy Schulze are reaping the benefits of their experience with his world. "There's very little conscious work that goes into it," Dean laughs. "Troy and I have been reading the play over and over again for such a long time that we've done so much work and forgotten about it. It pops out at rehearsal and it seems like inspiration but it's actually 10 years thinking about it."
At its very outset, Paradise Hotel warns the audience that they're actually attending the performance of a very different play -- Hotel Fuck -- which is itself under constant threat of being co-opted by a third play entitled Hotel Beautiful Roses. And don't start thinking it gets easier from there.
In talking with us about the play, Dean related Foreman's fascination with the feeling he gets watching the first 10 minutes of a film -- when everybody's frantically running around and the audience has to piece together for themselves who's who and what's what and how it all fits together. Through that cold entrance to a new world, the viewer has to use their own imaginative intelligence to make sense of everything. Foreman, Dean says, wants to prolong that initial creative feeling "before narrative puts everyone to sleep." And it's not just by switching the play on you in the first minute. At its very core, Paradise Hotel is an exercise in breaking expectations, a series of situations that are always interrupted or deflected before there's any resolution.
The play revolves around four people trying to get to the fabled Hotel Fuck (for obvious reasons). And yet obstruction after obstruction, frustration after frustration, keeps them from ever getting to their Shangri-La of base human nature. At times they're lured away by the ever encroaching kitsch of Hotel Beautiful Roses; at other times it is the omnipotent voice of the narrator that thwarts them (and sometimes it's simply themselves). Dean lyrically describes the unattainable Hotel Fuck as a perfume: "You can get a whiff of it, but you can't really pin it down and get a hold of it. You only get a glimpse to let you know that there's something there behind the veil."
The lack of easy answers sounds to us like Catastrophic doing what they do best: challenging theatregoers to think for themselves.
(Paradise Hotel runs Feb 11 - 26, at DiverseWorks, 1117 E Freeway. Opening night, $50; all other shows, pay-what-you-can. Tickets here.)