Originally staged by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project in an abandoned storefront in Somerville, MA, The Hotel Nepenthe won the Elliot Norton Award for best new play and is slated for new productions in 2012.
“Hotel Nepenthe is a splintered autopsy of cinema noir, skewering egomania and isolation in fin-de-dementia America. Comic? True. True? Tragically so.”
–Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked
“The Hotel Nepenthe is ridiculously funny.”
– Boston lowbrow
– The Boston Globe
All That Is Strange and True
By David Gammons
Entering the fantastic universe of a John Kuntz play—particularly The Hotel Nepenthe—must feel for some like stepping into an alternate reality. Time bends, space turns upside-down, and characters collide with a pyrotechnic spectacle that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. It can be both devastating and delightful, a bewildering and profoundly beautiful experience. For me, entering that fantastic universe is more like peeling the top of my skull away and peering directly into my own spectacularly disordered psyche. In other words, it feels like me.
John and I are the same age, and although we grew up separated by several hundred miles, our childhoods were remarkably similar. We watched the same crappy reruns of Fantasy Island on late night UHF television, ate the same bowls of Cap’n Crunch for breakfast the next morning, and drowned out the world with the same 80’s songs blaring on our Walkmans as we wandered the halls of our unforgiving high schools, outright aliens in our Robert Smith baggy black clothes and moussed-up Flock of Seagulls hairdos. We catalogued each casual cruelty and unexpected epiphany in black-bound blank books, dreaming of a day when we would be able to re-make the world in our own image. When we finally met (in the magical arena that allows us to do just that—the theatre) it felt like connecting with a long-lost twin.
John’s plays celebrate all that is strange and true—the idiosyncratic and the extraordinary, the mundane and the mysterious. His plays expose the things that make our sides ache with laughter and our hearts ache with both nostalgia and yearning. He taps into our deepest fears and lets us revel in our guiltiest pleasures. Chock full of references to popular culture but ballasted with a sincere humanity, John’s plays are both entertaining and provocative. His writing is both immediate and existential, insightful and exuberant.
The Hotel Nepenthe is a mesmerizing braid of narrative threads: characters, events, situations, and possibilities which wind their way through the dark streets of an anonymous city, criss-crossing, looping, knotting, and ultimately leading back to the enigmatic edifice of the play’s title. Collaborating with John and the other three amazing actors who first brought this play to life—Marianna Bassham, Daniel Berger-Jones, and Georgia Lyman—was an exhilarating adventure.
— Concord, MA, October, 2011