To get some kind of bearing on the surreal, philosophical musings of legendary downtown director-designer-playwright Richard Foreman, his 46th play and latest play, Paradise Hotel, begins with the following statement:
"All audiences must now be informed that the play Paradise Hotel is not, in fact the play Paradise Hotel but is in truth, a much more disturbing and possibly illegal play entitled 'Hotel Fuck!' For this we apologize ladies and gentlemen."
In Hotel, a typically Foreman-esque group of paranoid sexual adventurers get tangled in a war between good and bad hotels, with their dreams of sexual nirvana leading them from catastrophe to catastrophe.
Foreman attended the Yale School of Drama in the late fifties where, while honing his skill as a playwright, he churned out numerous neurotic farces -- a time he now refers to as his "Murray Schisgal period". Shortly after moving to New York in the sixties, he left the world of theatre spending a majority of his days at what was then the mecca of the experimental film scene, Jonas Mekas' Cinematheque.
Influenced by filmmakers like Jack Smith and Ken Jacobs, Foreman began using the Cinematheque on off-nights, experimenting with new ways of looking at theatre: exploiting the false starts and awkwardness of real life on a stage, utilizing non-actors to emphasize that presence, and the staging Foreman's own thought-process, complete with the constant siren songs that prevented him from coming up with answers and conclusions to his philosopichally laden questions.
He began showing the new "Ontological-Hysteric" Theatre to friends and denizens of the art community in 1968 with Angelface, continuing in the early seventies and onward to create this strange new breed of theatre that bore little resemblance to the That Championship Season and Sleuth playing uptown at the time. More than thirty years later, Foreman continues to create his unique brand of theatre with Paradise Hotel, playing at his own Ontological-Hysteric Theatre Jan. 2-April 19.
Hotel features former leading members of Dar-A-Luz, the company of the late avant-gardian, Reza Abdoh (Tight White Right). The collaboration wouldn't be the first time Foreman's joined teams with another company, in the early Eighties, he directed two collaborations with The Wooster Group: Symphony of Rats and Miss Universal Happiness.
The cast of Paradise Hotel includes: Juliana Francis (Go, Go, Go at PS 122), Tom Pearl, Tony Torn (Foreman's The Universe) , Jay Smith, Gary Wilmes (House), and Robin Punsalen (Four Zoas).
Recent Foreman plays include Benita Canova, Pearls for Pigs, Permanent Brain Damage (Risk It! Risk It!), The Universe, I've Got the Shakes, and My Head Was A Sledgehammer. One of experimental theatre's most decorated veterans, Foreman has won nine Obies, a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, the Edwin Booth Award, and the NEA's Lifetime Achievement Award.
For tickets ($15) or more information on Richard Foreman's Paradise Hotel at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre (131 East 10th Street), call (212) 533-4650.
-- By Sean McGrath