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Hot L Baltimore
a Comedy
by Lanford Wilson

COMPANY : Live Arts Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Belfry Playhouse (inside Norcross Presbyterian Church) [WEBSITE]
ID# 4877

SHOWING : April 08, 2016 - April 23, 2016



The scene is the lobby of a rundown hotel so seedy that it has lost the “e” from its marquee. As the action unfolds, the residents, ranging from young to old, from the defiant to the resigned, meet and talk and interact with each other during the course of one day. The drama is of passing events in their lives, of everyday encounters and of the human comedy, with conversations often overlapping into a contrapuntal musical flow. In the resulting mosaic, each character emerges clearly and perceptively defined, and the sum total of what they are—or wish they were—becomes a poignant, powerful call to America to recover lost values and to restore itself in its own and the world’s eyes.

Director Starshine Stanfield
Assistant Stage Manager Noelle Barrett
Assistant Stage Manager Janet Conant
Stage Manager Paul Franklin
April (Understudy) Shannon Varner Alexander
Mr. Katz R. Chandler Bragg
Girl Kendal Franklin
Bill Lewis Rob Frisina
Mr. Morse Lee Brewer Jones
April Ilene Miller
Jackie Heather Murray
Cab Driver D Norris
Paul Grainger III Branden Parisi
Mrs. Belotti Linda Place
Suzy Cat Roche
Jamie Robbie Summerour
Suzys John Edward Thompson
Mrs. Oxenham Sharon Wilson
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Hotel Baltimore
by playgoer
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Lanford Wilson’s "Hot L Baltimore" takes place in the lobby of a run-down extended-stay hotel. Eviction notices have just been sent out, and all the residents are scrambling to find new accommodations. A large cast of residents and a rotating set of front desk personnel trek across the stage as the action plays out over a couple of days.

Spencer Estes has done a wonderful job of designing a set that indicates the location with a perhaps once-stylish wall pattern and a front desk and broom closet squeezed into the very limited stage space. His lighting design can’t do much more than illuminate the wide playing area, but it does so evenly and effectively. Costume design by Andrea Hermitt and Becca Parker adds visual appeal, while also helping to delineate character. Paul Franklin’s sound design covers scene changes with period appropriateness.

Community theatre requiring such a large cast is bound to include performances of various skill levels. Director Starshine Stanfield has done a very nice job, though, of whipping the cast into shape, keeping the pace going and ensuring that various emotional levels help drive the action. Consequently, no one looks bad. Sure, there are characters and moments that could have more depth, but the complex script is brought to vibrant life, overlapping dialogue and all.

In a big ensemble cast, not everyone gets a chance to shine. Even so, everyone inhabits his or her role fully. Some standouts, in my estimation, are Rick Bragg as put-upon hotel manager Mr. Katz; Linda Place as Mrs. Bellotti, downtrodden mother of an evicted tenant; and especially Heather Murray as Jackie, a young woman of indeterminate sex, strong knowledge of geography, and an invincible sense of self. Kendal Franklin is bright and energetic in the central role of the Girl, playing off nicely against the desk clerk played by Rob Frisina. Interactions are also effective between Branden Parisi, as a man searching for his grandfather, and Sharon Wilson, as another desk clerk. Ladies of the evening (Ilene Miller and Cat Roche) add spark to their scenes too.

"Hot L Baltimore" is light on plot and heavy on character-driven activity. We don’t find out what will happen to most of the characters, but we get enough hints from their behavior and personalities to have a chance at guessing. But in the case of this play, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. Under Starshine Stanfield’s expert direction, the lobby of the hotel comes to life for a brief couple of days before it is scheduled to be reduced to rubble and oblivion. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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