A seedy hotel lobby filled with society’s rejects is the setting for Heights Players’ version of the poignant comedy-drama “The Hot L Baltimore.” The wrecker’s ball is about to demolish the once grand hotel. In disrepair, the letter “e” has fallen from the hotel’s neon sign and has not been replaced. Of all the story’s bizarre characters, the hotel itself is the most meaningful!
Before curtain, Director Bernard Bosio shares some important insights with the audience. We recall the chaotic decay that faced many urban metropolises of the 1970s. Bosio underscores this chaos with the actor’s constant overlapping of dialogues and the incessant and excessively loud radio music. The effect is palpable.
The patchwork of personalities in the realistic hotel lobby (Gary VanderPutten, set design) include “working girls” played by Jill Bolstridge, Meghan Hindmarch and Martina Mehta. Known simply as “The Girl,” Meghan’s character makes the most earnest attempt at compassion and friendship. Martina and Jill’s roles are far more worldly, experienced and yes, jaded.
Other denizens of the hotel lobby include desk clerks Bill Lewis (Thomas O’Connor), Mr. Katz (Chris Carlson) and bookkeeper Mrs. Oxenham (Andrea Messina Smargiassi). You would expect their interactions with the hotel guests to be less eccentric but even these mundane characters are somehow far from normal. Elderly Millie (Pauline Walsh) sees ghosts. Senile Mr. Morse (Larry Gutman) is bullied by younger boarders. Frantic Mrs. Bellotti (Gail Lemelbaum) is a worried mother with a troubled grown son.
No consistent story line emerges. Instead the audience is mesmerized by each and every quirky relationship. Brother Jamie (Danny Conover) and his sister Jackie (Erin Hanraty) are the cruelest. Their sibling bond, by contrast, is more benign. Grandson Paul Granger III (Scott Cahoon) desperately seeks clues to his grandfather’s whereabouts, then coldly loses interest. Kudos to Michael Ables who is tasked with the miscellaneous walk-ons. Behind the scenes bows for Marialana Ardolino, Jessica Baird DePaolo, Brittany Fowler, Alan Sporing, James Martinelli and Joe Pacifico among others.
The play’s inescapable paradox is how successfully each character is painted yet none earn our genuine affection or sympathy. They are perfectly human metaphors of the imperfectly urban decay in which they live. Well done!
There are two more weekends to catch the production. “Hot L Baltimore” will be performed on November 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and November 15 and 22 at 2 p.m. at the John Bourne Theatre at the Heights Players, 26 Willow Place. Tickets are $20 and $18 for seniors and children under 18.
For information on this and future shows, visit www.heightsplayers.org or call (718) 237-2752. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.