THE HOT L BALTIMORE
The Hot L Baltimore
Wolf Entertainment Guide
May 15, 2006
The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) usually digs further back into theater history for its staged readings that rediscover interesting works for reappraisal. Lanford Wilson’s “The Hot L Baltimore,” presented May 6-8, 2006, only dates to 1973. But come to think of it, that’s still 33 years ago. At the time the play was considered quite innovative in the way it dealt with those struggling to keep going and retain their dignity in the face of being regarded as expendable. Today the play still seems relevant, although the style doesn’t seem as unusual as it did at the time.
Even originally there may have been too much fuss made of breakthrough qualities, as the play was in the tradition of other works that dealt with struggling souls, particularly by the great playwright Eugene O’Neill. But however one classifies the work of Wilson, who subsequently made a major mark with such plays as “Fifth of July” and “Talley’s Folly,” “The Hot L Baltimore” is packed with feeling and the opportunity for good performances. It also still generates a timely protest for how society runs roughshod over people and the past in the quest for what is supposed to be change for the better. Such ideas unfortunately do not go out of style.
The focus here is a hotel that has seen better days, is populated by an odd assortment of characters and is supposed to be eliminated. What will happen to the inhabitants if the Hotel Baltimore is no more?
We meet an odd and colorful array of individuals. The first act is concerned with letting us get to know the people and the stronger, more moving second and third acts reflect their relationships and struggles. There is a warm, bittersweet, sometimes amusing and often poignant impact. As usual, the TACT cast does a commendable job of character portrayal and communicates the essence of the author’s insights.
Without singling out individuals, the skillful ensemble this time includes Scott Schafer, Adina Verson, Delphi Harrington, Cynthia Darlow, Elizabeth Meadows Rouse, James Prendergast, Kelly Hutchinson, Bob Braswell, Eli Ganias, Ashley West, Richard Ferrone, Jamie Bennett and Nora Chester. Music, composed by John Slover, was provided by Seth Fruyterman on accordion and also singing, and Rupert Boyd on guitar. Victor Papas directed.