“Residence” — a play that’s about our desire to embrace or run from responsibility — is a production with a distinctly fresh face.
Organized as a series of interconnected vignettes, playwright Laura Jacqmin’s work follows new mom Maggie (Danielle Slavick) and two extended-stay hotel employees, Bobby (Alejandro Rodriguez) and Theresa (Leah Karpel).
The play neatly unpacks the way their individual stories mirror and contrast each other.
Maggie, who we find out had a child six months ago, is a medical technology rep who has traveled to Tempe, Arizona, to try to sell $30,000 portable ultrasound machines to area physicians.
But Jacqmin drops clues early in the script that this isn’t any normal business trip. There are arguments via Facetime with her stay-at-home husband (Avery Glymph), pills that she is uncertain she wants to take, and a bottle of whiskey that she has hidden in her purse (despite her husband’s request that she not drink).
From the moment we meet the core group — Maggie, Theresa and Bobby — we have an idea of their respective personalities. Maggie is the aggressive negotiator. Theresa, a manager-trainee at the Residence, is eager to develop professionally and provide a “five-star experience” for her guests. And Bobby is the lovable, pot-smoking funny guy.
It doesn’t take long for our understanding of the characters to deepen.
After a series of increasingly poor sales pitches to physicians (all played by Avery Glymph as well), it is revealed that Maggie recently spent six weeks in a psychiatric care unit. We find out Bobby has an ex-girlfriend (Amelia Workman) who is the mother of a daughter he has never seen.
Finally, we learn Theresa is enrolled in a degree program for hospitality that is sketchy at best — they raise tuition rates mid-semester — that is being paid for by her absent father, who eventually goes MIA, forcing her to quit and leaving her to find another way to convince her manager to let her stay in the trainee program.
Everything about “Residence” is smart — the pacing, the direction — but perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises was in scene design. The play is presented in the round, a style that can constrain set designers and impede viewers from being convincingly transported from scene to scene.
However, designer Daniel Zimmerman has fantastically utilized the space in the Bingham Theatre by elevating a platform that represents the rooftop pool and lounge area above the stage. When a location change comes, it drops to the ground as the hotel furniture recedes beneath the stage.
“Residence” is a cohesive, compassionate production that strikes all the chords to make it feel both fresh and personal.
Written by Laura Jacqmin
Directed by Hal Brooks
Humana Fest performances run through April 10. More information here.