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Up in the Old Hotel

La Concierge Solitaire at Elm Theatre, Reviewed

This week St. Francisville Transitory Theatre (SFTT) remounted a production of La Concierge Solitaire, a one woman show featuring a wild and entertaining cast of characters.  


Currently onstage at the Elm Theatre, the production has been a work in progress between playwright Matthew Morris and director Andrew Farrier since 2009. With a fresh yet professional air, the SFTT team made a show that can give as much as you ask from it, whether a solipsistic questioning of the world or just one good night out on the town.


The performer, Cecile Monteyne, continues her high-caliber work in New Orleans, including the recent work of the improv duo machine A.  Making use of her extensive training -- from Tulane to SITI Company to the Upright Citizens Brigade and beyond -- her precision in physical technique becomes the necessary cornerstone for a show that demands over seven characters from one performer. Monteyne beautifully manages the cast with a distinct vocalization and physicality for her characters, and merges conversations between and among  them with a choreography that pleases and impresses.


Props also help audience members keep track of unfolding events as they become stand-ins for characters at the Chateau d’Or Hotel, a seemingly timeless hotel that has its roots in the exquisite roar of the 1920s.  A cigarette holder becomes the owner’s wife; a briefcase becomes the pathetically lost anthropologist.


While these objects give a physical presence to the character, the color comes from the performance.  In the playwright’s note, Morris cites his “love of silent and early sound cinema” as the basis for his “desire to tell a story through gesture alone.”  Monteyne’s subtleties accomplish just that, whether the curled hand of an Eastern European wannabe pimp or the wrong-side-of-town accent of the Parlor Maid.


The play begins with the Concierge contemplating leaving a dark room existing in shambles: lights overturned, curtains askew, and memories of yesteryear strewn about the floor. The faintest tap tap tap on a suitcase conveys to the audience a sense of nervous indecision. As the play continues, we find that we are witness to innards of the concierge’s mind.


That said, the question of how the events related in the play actually unfolded is never addressed. Far from being a problem, this absence of certainty makes the concierge’s various performances all the more entrancing, as the audience can believe the hotel suffered a range of fates, from a mass exodus to Mexico or closure due to the slaying of a cinema star.


The production also features effective sound and music cues.  Sometimes a storm, sometimes the excitement of swing music, the sounds aid the audience in following the rhythm of the show.  Often, Monteyne’s performance would pause as the lights and audio would dim and then rise, allowing her concierge to re-perform and slightly alter the way events unfold.  Whether this is the concierge’s wish of how a certain night may have gone or whether its the rambling musings of an insane information-desk person, one could never tell. 


St. Francisville Transitory Theatre has been producing works, including seven original texts, since 2003.  The company takes its name from “its mascot, the Transi-tortoise, who always carries his home on his back.”  Following SFTT one sees Thronton Wilder, Shakespeare, and original work all performed in venues ranging from a trailer to Le Chat Noir.  For this production, the Elm Theatre provides a wonderful venue for the one-woman show, as it seats only a couple dozen guests.  The crowd, however doesn’t seem to mind close quarters as they share laughs and a fun evening of theatre.


Overall La Concierge Solitaire offers a well-produced theatrical event, complete with laughs and fleshed-out characters performed by a talented and well trained performer. And for those who wish to hurt their brains trying to figure out the nature of inter-human interaction and their impact on the psyche, there is something there for you too.


La Concierge Solataire plays at Elm Theatre (220 Julia St.) Wednesdays-Saturdays from Jan. 11-25. Showtime is at 8 p.m. Find ticket information here.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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