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Theater Review: Room Service

The “immersive cast” of Room Service: Andrew Grigorian, Sandra Hellesto Fancher,Ray Bobillo, Melissa Strauss, Wesley Simpkin. Tilly Ye and Cynthia Payo in Room Service. Photo by Doug Engalla.

Room Service is the only Marx Brothers movie adapted from another medium, in this case a 1937 play by John Murray and Allen Boretz. The zany comedy has a lot of comings and goings, a cast of 21, vintage references and humor, and even a few songs.

A play about theater folk, Room Service is appealing on many levels, and receives a fun production from Group Rep. It’s amusing even to think that there was once a time when a Broadway show could be mounted for $15,000; today, as the program points out, it would be $3-6 million.

Group Rep goes all out, with period costumes by Aylah Robinson, first on display in front of the theater, as the show’s “immersive cast” welcome audience members to the “hotel.” There’s a well-appointed Art Deco hotel suite set by Chris Winfield. Full-on musical numbers, performed by that immersive cast, introduce each of the three acts (separated by two intermissions).

The story centers around producer Gordon Miller (Will Maizel), in the process of mounting a Broadway show called Godspeed. Miller is trying to hide the fact that he’s broke from his actors and the hotel where he’s been racking up a massive bill ($1,200!). He gets a break when a waiter/actor Sasha Smirnoff (Chris Winfield) auditions and is cast because he can provide some free food.

Chris Winfield and Will Maizel in Room Service. Photo by Doug Engalla.

The overlapping storylines mostly revolve around money: how to get it, how to work around not having it and, in the case of hotel manager Gregory Wagner (Joe Eastburn), how to squeeze it out of those who don’t have it and can’t figure out how to get it. There’s even a little (very little) romance, between Wagner’s secretary Hilda (Jessica Kent) and playwright Leo Davis (Timothy Willard).

Jessica Kent and Timothy Willard in Room Service. Photo by Doug Engalla.

Room Service is an old-school comedy, performed with enthusiasm. Among its lessons is why hotels now use key cards that can be turned off to deny deadbeats access to a room.

Room Service runs through Oct. 15, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets are $35 and are available at

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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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