Bonnie Greer is known for being controversial, outspoken and current.
Her vision is to explore a class that isn’t written about enough; The black elite.
The Hotel Cerise (Cherry in French) is a summer resort created exclusively for affluent African Americans in the 1920’s.
The play opens with hip hop music playing and street dance poses which give the illusion that this is going to be an urban version of The Cherry Orchard. However this gesture isn’t repeated and is unclear however we are told it is set in 2016 Chicago in the context of Black Lives Matter.
We are greeted by Anita who has inherited the property from her white ancestor and a great deal of money. Her family,the Mountjoys face the loss of the beloved Orchard and it is also where Anita’s son is buried. Ellen Thomas plays a powerful leading lady and has amazing presence and status on stage.
It brings joy to see a stage full of substantial talented black actors playing elite characters. However, due to such a large cast there is no substance to the characters; they all seem 2D and unrelateable. There seems to be too many stories to follow and hidden romances. Greer’s inspiration to take on a classic is lost in translation as the current day politics are thrown into the mix but never develop.
Discussions of Trump and sadness of Obama are repeated but feel insincere. There is an argument about the amount of black deaths that have occurred under Obama’s reign and American troops that have died in the Iraq invasion but then turns into a dance number with a mix of Michael Jackson playing. The direction seems messy and out of date with unclear symbolism and metaphors thrown at the audience. Another out of place dance number celebrating the 4th July circa the 70s takes away any substantial conversations that are occurring.
They seem concerned with where they fit in as people of colour in America but seem ignorant to any history to Ghana. Some of the characters make fun out of not knowing the names of the Mexican workers. I guess this poses the question of the American hierarchy by the new incomers and constantly being fearful of change. It is another confusing subject matter that feels undeveloped and has plenty of room to grow.
We are left at the end of the play that The Hotel Cerise has been bought by a family friend to try and keep it in the family. Anita doesn’t seem happy with this decision and bawls at the loss of the Orchard, the loss of her son, the loss caused by all the black deaths, the loss of Obama and the fear that Trump could be president. That is a lot to lose and so much to say. The back drop of The Cherry Orchard confuses the plotline and the subject matter is lost, with so much to say it feels an original piece would have been more fitting. 2/5
Review written by Jessica Andrade.
The Hotel Cerise is currently showing at Stratford East Theatre Royal until… for more information on the production, visit here…
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