It’s 1958 and at the Beauregard Hotel in England which is a place where certain people like to return to and others just like to be part of, “Separate Tables” at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills is a play that is layered with personalities, problems and surprises you’ll not see coming. “Separate Tables” made its actual debut in London in 1954 and eventually made its way to Broadway where it was nominated for the Tony award in 1957. It’s engaging. It’s got a slower pace at first – but as the information is discovered, you will become more and more entranced into where every character is going.
Produced by David Hunt Stafford and directed by Jules Aaron, the play has some unusual staging. There are literally seats in the audience where either you are trying to peer around furniture or staring at the performer’s backs. The blocking was slightly awkward. However the focus is clearly on the characters which made for some of the most exciting dramatic moments.
Written by Sir Terence Rattigan, “Separate Tables” is actually a mash-up of two short plays where they share a location which is a dining room in a residential hotel in Bournemouth, England. Coincidently they also share some of the same characters as well.
In the first act, ‘Table by the Window’, we find an alcoholic left-wing writer who passionately loves the female manager of the hotel. Surprise! The man’s ex-wife, who is a glamorous model who is a disparaged because she is getting older also checks into the hotel. The drama there ensues.
In the second act, called ‘Table Number Seven’, an ex-military man enjoys the company of a spinster; however they are both too afraid of life and of other people in particular to notice they themselves have actually been noticed. Then as it happens, the woman’s manipulative, domineering mother exposes the man’s hidden secrets that shakes everything – to pieces and more.
Diana Angelina plays Miss Cooper and the keeper or manager of the Hotel and I must say – her performance was sharp and spot on in her business tone and neutrality to all the guests in her Hotel. Diana was completely engaging and always seemingly one step ahead of everyone else. She gave the character calmness and smarts which resonated in everyone else’s character.
Mona Lee Wilde plays Mrs. Railton-Bell who is as mean and curmudgeonly as anyone can be. She is wealthy and aristocratic to an utterly annoying level. She was so easy to dislike, there was a point I just loved watching her be mean and cruel. Especially to her daughter. It’s one of those performances you’ll just love to hate – she did it that extremely well.
Roslyn Cohn plays Sybil the daughter of Mrs. Railton-Bell and I must say she was so interesting to watch. Timid, internal and often unsure of herself, Roslyn was so haunting when she becomes aware of how her mother treats her. When, at the end – oopps, no spoilers here – but you are going to love what she does with her character – you might even cheer out loud for her when she does.
Susan Priver plays Anne Shankland a model who has become aware of the passing of time and that she needs to keep her beauty as long as she can. Formerly married to Mr. Malcom – her passions for him ring through. Susan gives a proud and empathetic performance that will move your soul as she realizes what means most to her. Strong and bold, it’s her flaws and failings that make her an admirable character to see.
Adrian Neal plays Mr. Malcolm a freelancer of many things and a person who clearly can’t hold his liquor to the point that he embarrasses himself. Adrian does the drunkenness very well and everything from the slurs to the falls and accidents are all heartfelt as you realize what means most to him too.
Mariko Van Kampen plays Lady Mathison and as her regal nature and strong attitude is her spine – her sense of priority and society are clearly her guiding force. A wonderful performance of contrast and tone.
Michelle Schultz plays Miss Meacham whose innocent and often hurt personality gives a wonderful contrast to almost everyone else’s so serious nature. Her performance is both honest and fun to see.
Melissa Collins plays Jean Stratton the wife of Charles and eager to make her mark in society but madly in love with her husband played by Caleb. She is whimsical and fun in contrast to her husband’s more serious nature.
Caleb Slavens plays Charles Stratton the husband of Jean who has his work and own life as a priority. He is serious and has a dry sense of humor and wit that makes his character just plain fun to watch and interact with this wife played by Melissa.
David Hunt Stafford (who is also the play’s producer) plays the character of Major Pollack and his secret is both dishonest and heartfelt as you realize who and what he really is to everyone else. David plays the nervousness very well, while still keeping the seriousness of his mistakes as a focus for his reform. He does a nice turn around and understands as he is accepted – eventually – no spoilers again here – why? You just have to see it!
Wonderfully full costume designs by Michèle Young gave shine to the mood lifting lighting design by Kent Inasy and an amazing revolving set and period perfect set design overall by the talented Jeff G. Rack. There is also a nice underscore of original music that was composed by Max Kinberg. Overall “Separate Tables” is a really engaging theatrical experience of drama.
Other uniquely interesting performers included Suzan Soloman who is playing the maid/housekeeper/waitress of the Hotel, Doreen who is never not busy and tends to everyone’s need. Also, John Wallace Combs who is playing Mr. Fowler another regular guest at the Hotel who shares his opinions when he sees fit to do so.
“Separate Tables” as performed at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills is a story involving many diverse characters and how they appear to each other. Some true to themselves and others with secrets that change the way people feel – a drama with a twist or two that will keep you hooked.