This streamed reading of Jon Robin Baitz’s play, performed to raise money for Broadway Cares, features two extremely compelling performances.
Although it is described as a play, Baitz’s compelling piece of drama is actually comprised of several monologues, capturing not only the relationship of two flawed characters – but also explores themes such as grief and company greed.
It’s based around the true events of how in the 1970s Nestlé promoted the use of baby formula products in poverty stricken countries in Africa, insisting it was better for infants than breast feeding. But due to to lack of drinkable water and a lot of misinformation this led to illness and lots of infant deaths. This is used as the starting point of the play as it examines the morals of big corporations and promotions of misinformation as seen through the experiences through the eyes of one couple.
Produced by Tectonic Theater Project, and directed by Moisés Kaufman, each of the three monologues fit perfectly together to provide a very detailed examination of Kenneth (Bobby Cannavale) and Barbara (Marisa Tomei) as individuals but also as a couple who somewhat drifted apart in the aftermath of a tragedy.
Yet, the opening monologue suggests that the play is going to go down a different route as Kenneth talks about the way in which he ruthlessly sacks people from the company that he works for. It is a defensive and passionate speech in which he discusses how the company is trying to promote the use of baby formula products to those in poorer countries with a lack of drinkable water. It really feels initially as though it is purely about corporate greed but, by the climax, the writing captures a sense of the character beginning to reflect on his own actions – enhanced further in the third monologue.
Meanwhile, the second monologue sees Kenneth’s wife Barbara discussing her son’s horrific murder – which happened because those who attacked him simply wanted his new watch. Through Tomei’s performance we really see and hear the character’s anguish at not only the loss of her child but the distance between her and her husband.
Moisés Kaufman’s style of direction for this piece is very direct and frank that makes it compelling to watch throughout – enhanced even further by the two contrasting performances. Cannavale as Kenneth really captures the gradual changes in his character’s attitude – transforming from this arrogant and defensive personality to someone who realises just how important his wife has been in his life. It is a performance that is filled with a contrast of emotions, that is revealed with great rawness. Meanwhile, Tomei’s performance is heart wrenching as she struggles to deal with the loss of her son – which she talks about with explicit detail. The devastation in her eyes and mannerisms is haunting to witness.
Filled with pain and sorrow, Three Hotels is a powerful piece of drama with two strong performances at its heart that make the audience sit up and pay attention.
By Emma Clarendon
Three Hotels is streaming to raise money for Broadway Cares. The play can be watched for free until the 31st January.