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Theater review: 'Elevator' at the Hudson Guild

August 5, 2010 |  3:30 pm
ELEVATOR_1 Sartre with a touch of Borscht Belt thrown in, Michael Leoni’s “Elevator” at the Hudson Guild traps seven people on a stalled office building elevator and lets them stew for several hours.

In good Sartrean style, hell is other people – but only initially.  Bickering soon gives way to bonding, and the resident misanthropes, like Grinches, develop rapidly expanding hearts.  Since an elevator full of chartered accountants wouldn’t have quite the same zip, it’s a given that Leoni’s characters are from radically different walks of life, from the neurotic female CEO (Deborah Vancelette) to the wise African American maintenance man (William Stanford Davis), whose antecedents are not as humble as they first appear. 

Eventually, the elevator becomes a de facto confessional where secrets are revealed and unlikely bonds are formed.  Interstitial scenes -- wordless sequences meant to convey the passage of time -- are sometimes slo-mo, sometimes super-speedy, like a crazily malfunctioning super 8 movie.

The comically existential set-up is hardly new, but despite a series of sit-com-simple resolutions, Leoni, who also directs, invests the production with ample wit and high-gloss style. The excellent cast includes Alex Rogers, Mikie Beatty, Karlee Rigby and Rachael Page. Erica Katzin shines as a plus-size temp who is trying to figure out her particular talent in life -- which she does before our eyes and spectacularly. Mario Marchetti’s crucial sound design features his own original music, and David Goldstein, who also designed the great lighting, contributes a truly remarkable set that sets a high standard for sub-99 seat theater.

“Elevator,” Hudson Guild, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.   8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday. $20.  (323) 960-7787.  Running time:  1 hour, 15 minutes.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

Photo: Rachael Page, Deborah Vancelette, Mikie Beatty, Alex Rogers, Williams Stanford Davis, Karlee Rigby and Erica Katzin. Credit: Michelle Kaufer.