The Hot L Baltimore

The Pacific Theatre Ensemble Presents

The Hot L Baltimore

By Lanford Wilson

NOVEMBER 20-26, 1986
Hot I Baltimore

There’s a new light beginning to bum in dark Old Pasadena with the re-emergence of the Pacific Theatre Ensemble, late of The Powerhouse and other spaces. They’ve landed at Brunswick Court for what hopefully will be a long stay, and they’ve begun operations with short runs of two popular revivals, The Importance of Being Earnest in December and currently Lanford Wilson’s Hot l Baltimore.

Directed with a fine eye to balance, structure, tempos and rhythms by Julia Fletcher, Wilson’s romp through one day in the lobby of a crumbling, soon to be demolished residence hotel remains a very neat entertainment with its share of laughter and the playwright’s unfailing feel for the humanity of the human condition.

It is also graced with a generous sprinkling of excellent performances to exhibit the dexterity and versatility of the company. The Girl, around whom much of the action flurries as she glides blissfully through life fixing things for herself and others, is an understated hooker who can’t decide what her name is, given a reading of intelligence, depth and warmth by Melinda Deane. She’s not, however, the only hooker on the premises. Gretchen Oehler’s April, wisecracking and wise, is a continual surprise and delight, and Yolanda Lloyd’s Suzy is captured as brassy and broad as she must be, both performances tempered by sharp timing. John DeMita is a warm, comfortable desk clerk Bill, his relaxed approach just right to balance the hectic action around him. Marylin Fox brings good color and inflection to Millie, the retired waitress who used to wait on Coolidge at the Pioneer Restaurant, and Catherine Telford’s Mrs. Bellotti, who’s riding herd on her grown son Horse, has the nice comic quality of smiling from inside in the face of disaster.

Phil Giannikas is ingratiating as Paul Granger III, looking for clues to the whereabouts of his grandfather, an island of apparent but not actual calm in this turmoil. As Mr. Morse, the cranky old mystery man consumed with the condition of his chest and his checkers, Michael Tulin, a born character actor, is superbly funny playing 30 years older even making one frequently forget that makeup can’t cover bone structure and skin tone. Richard Harrison is a delightful and charming Jamie, slow-witted brother to the firebrand of the Baltimore, health nut, rough as a mini-stevedore Jackie. Along with Oehler’s April, it is Libby Boone’s Jackie who almost runs away with the show, from glowering glance over the shoulder to stomping exit, her timing and assurance are as much a part of her kit as Jackie’s map of worthless property and deed to same. Also doing beautifully in smaller roles are Rob Morris as hotel manager Katz, Sarah Zinsser as Mrs. Oxenham, Robert Kempf and Dub Croft as two of the girls’ johns, Brad Zerbst as a cabby and Nathan Haas as a pizza boy.

The setting by Don Carlos and Benecia Martinez is appropriate using secondhand furniture and brightening it with marvelous detail such as the venerable hotel switchboard; Jim Beam’s lighting design is effective considering the limited instruments available to the company at this time. Lori Martin costumes the production with insight and inspiration, from The Girl’s unhookerish jeans to Suzy’s very hookerish flash and glitz.

Pacific Theatre Ensemble is a group of critically acclaimed merit which should be just the theatrical spark needed in the move to bring life back to Old Pasadena.

0 comments on “The Hot L Baltimore

Leave Comment