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John Conlon and Barbara Webb, who play Grandpa and Grandma. Courtesy photo.




See Hotel LaPutts

Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord
When: Friday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 4, at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $18 for adults, $16 for juniors
Contact: communityplayersofconcord.org, 344-4747, nhdm40@comcast.net




Locally funny
Players produce Wallace Pineault’s Hotel LaPutts

05/01/14
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 Manchester resident Wallace J. Pineault had never written a comedy before Hotel LaPutts, so it was especially gratifying when, during a small reading after its completion, there was laughter. 

“I was sitting there, very nervous — some people don’t have my sense of humor,” Pineault said in a phone interview. (He says his is a “sick” or “warped” sense of humor that’s sleek with sarcasm.) This first play reading occurred a few years ago, and the audience was a huddle of friends from the local theater community.
One of them was Chris Demers, an active member of the Community Players of Concord.
“He wanted us to take a part and read the piece. He hadn’t had an audience yet. There were 15 to 20 of us, packed in his living room,” Demers said. “It was an earlier draft, but I remember that it was a lot of fun.”
But what affirmed that the script could be something more was a dramatic reading at New England College shortly after. (Pineault taught there since 1986 and retires after this spring.)
“The audience walked out laughing and laughing. My friends who did the reading at my house knew me, but the audience at the college, I knew, were laughing just at the stuff I had written,” Pineault said.
The next test will be whether audience members react to the stage version: the Community Players of Concord present Hotel LaPutts this weekend at the Concord City Auditorium. It’s the world premiere of Pineault’s first comedy, but also the second time this season the Players have opted to produce an original play by a local playwright. (The last was Kong’s Night Out, which was written by Derry playwright Jack Neary.) Pineault will direct the show as well.
Under normal circumstances, Demers admitted that he might not have taken part in Hotel LaPutts; Demers was in both Spamalot and Kong’s Night Out with the Players. If you’re a theater person, you know that doing two, never mind three, shows in a row can be exhausting. 
But upon seeing that Pineault would be directing, Demers auditioned and earned the lead role of Buddy LaPutts.
“I’ve had the chance to work with him on other shows he’s directed,” Demers said. “He’s been a theater teacher for many years, so he approaches the task of directing, in many ways, the way a teacher would. I always learn a lot from him, regardless of the size of the role or the nature of the show.”
This show is a fast-paced farce set in a deteriorating, secluded New Hampshire hotel owned by the “eccentric” LaPutts family, who are anxious to save their hotel from foreclosure. At the center of the action is a seemingly charming guest named Harry Warner, a man who claims to be a pharmaceutical salesman but who is actually a criminal and believes the middle-of-nowhere location is  perfect for transactions of the drug cartel he runs. Horrified at being in the middle of this drug trade, the LaPutts have to find a way to save themselves and their hotel.
Included among the cast of 23 are some quirky characters (like the LaPutts family), a few of Harry’s hoodlum friends, a ditzy fiance, a delusional private detective and the family’s talkative parrot.
New Hampshire theater regular Barbara Webb plays Grandma, and she thinks the characters are the show’s strength.
“I think that people will like the characters in this play,” Webb said. “There are lots of people coming in and out of the hotel, and each character has a definite, specific personality, and I think people will enjoy seeing that.”
Initially, Hotel LaPutts was going to be a film; Pineault first wrote it as a screenplay during a class he was taking at New England College. (He was also teaching at NEC at the time.)
“When it was done, the professor told me that not only would it be a funny film, but that I should consider adapting it into a play,” Pineault said. “Writing for film is totally different from writing for stage, but I took on the challenge.”
Adapting Hotel LaPutts wouldn’t be outside his comfort zone. Pineault has been involved with theater for 40 years; he earned a doctorate in theater from Bowling Green State University and has written a handful of other plays (that are not comedies). He’s also worked with well-known playwrights John Cariani (who wrote Almost, Maine), Lavonne Mueller (Breaking the Prairie Wolf Code) and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tad Mosel.
Producing an unknown show in Concord is a bit risky, Demers said, but it’s risky in a good way.
“It’s harder to sell shows that are unknown, but I think it signals to the stretch of the organization that we want to support the art and are willing to comp on ticket sales,” Demers said. “It also speaks to the organization’s commitment and faith in Wallace, who’s been in the organization for 37-odd years.” 
 
As seen in the May 1, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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