Hot-L Baltimore has a shaky foundation.
Thursday, September 9, 1999
Wilson, the author of The Fifth of July and Tally''s Folly, specializes in ensemble pieces, and Hot-L Baltimore is no exception. This is difficult material from both a performer''s and an audience member''s point of view. It''s not because the material is particularly sophisticated--believe me, it''s not--but because the structure of the play is such that each character is given equal time. There are no "lead" characters, and there are numerous agendas within the loosely plotted scripts. Hence there is no unifying theme or central character upon which an audience can hang its collective hat.
On top of this, Wilson''s characters are stock--the prostitute with a heart of gold; the crotchedy old man; the faded, slightly batty southern belle. His dialogue is unnatural, and lacks an internal rhythm (it doesn''t flow as "real" dialogue would). It is also full of non-sequiturs and split scenes, which are difficult for actors to grapple with and memorize.
The loose structure of this play requires that the director make decisions on what moments will be highlighted so that a cohesive, cogent story takes shape. Without this "sculpting" of the material--a challenge even for a well-trained group of artists--Wilson''s work is a cacaphony of confusion. Unfortunately, the Unicorn''s production does not succeed in overcoming the challenge.
With few exceptions, the acting was one-dimensional and unfocused. Virtually every performer bobbled, stepped on or forgot lines, a sure sign of a lack of comfort and familiarity with the material. Also, the internal relationships between the characters were largely absent. Presumably, these people have lived together in this dive for some time, yet it was sometimes difficult to tell whether they had even previously met. Vocals were also problematic. There was a tendency by most of the actors to swallow their vowels and drop the ends of their sentences, rendering much of the dialogue unintelligible. Many laughs were lost because of this.
There were a few nice performances. Roo Hornady as Millie had clear diction and a well-formed characterization. Jody Gilmore, who played the sadly clueless Jamie, had few lines but made all of them count. Timothy Paul as Bill Lewis elicited our sympathy for the beleagured and lovestruck desk clerk. And Dewey Knighten, who played Mr. Morse, managed to hit the punch lines for the few laughs that worked during the evening. These performances were not enough, however, to affect the overall energy of the show, which fluctuated from frenetic to listless.
Hot-L Baltimore plays at the Hoffman Playhouse in Monterey through Oct. 3.
Luv Thursday, 7pm; Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Comedy. Harry is depressed; he runs into Milt, who hates his wife; Milt wants to marry her off to Harry, so he can wed his girlfriend. This Murray Schisgal comedy is a clever spoof of avant-garde drama, the kind that takes itself oh-so-seriously. SRO Studio Theater at Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. $7/General. Through: 9/26.
Merry Wives of Windsor Friday preview, Opens Saturday and Sunday, 7:30pm. The hard-drinking, woman-loving Falstaff is back in this light Shakespeare comedy performed by Pacific Repertory Company. This time, he''s out to charm two upstanding matrons, and win them to his bed--but they have other ideas. Half-price preview Friday. Saturday benefit for Salvation Army, all tickets $35. Sunday: $18/General, $10/Students & seniors. Golden Bough Theater, Monteverde Street at 8th Avenue, Carmel. 622-0100. Through:10/17.
Mizlansky/Zilinsky or "Schmucks" Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm. Comedy. Set in L.A. at the height of the ''80s-greed decade, this outrageous comedy stars Mark Shilstone-Laurent as Davis Mizlansky, a B-movie producer who makes cheesy Bible movies as a tax shelter scam. Then he meets up with Sam Zilinsky (Jerry Gill), a small-time swindler who makes even worse sexploitation flicks. Together, they push the edge of the morality envelope. Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Guadalupe Street and 4th Avenue, Carmel. $14/General; $12/Seniors. 646-9478. Through:10/3.
Fortinbras Sunday, 2pm. Comedic Drama. It''s best if you know Hamlet, but even if you don''t, the strong writing (by Lee Blessing), wonderful staging and uniformly excellent performances of this clever take-off of the original Shakespeare tragedy will have you in stitches. John Farmanesh-Bocca is a delight as Fortinbras, the central figure in a "what-if" comedy that pokes fun mercilessly at the tale of the Depressed Dane. All the Hamlet characters come back to un-life, to thwart--in hilarious fashion--Fortinbras'' hare-brained attempts to unite the kingdom he''s inherited (by default). Thurs.-Fri. ticket prices: $18/General, $10/Students & seniors. Circle Theater at the Golden Bough, Monteverde Street at 8th Avenue, Carmel. 622-0100. Through: 10/16.
Hot-L Baltimore Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 7pm. Comedy. (Reviewed in this issue.) Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman St., Monterey. $15/General; $12/Seniors. 649-0259.Through:10/3.
The Road to Frisco Friday & Saturday, 8pm. Melodrama. This 19th-century melodrama set in the Old West follows the tale of a purloined map of the Golden Dream mine, which is lifted from its rightful owner, our young heroine. She sets off with her uncle in pursuit of the map and tangles with some dastardly banker types. The show, performed in California''s oldest continuously operating theater, is followed by the traditional olio revue. California''s First Theatre, Scott and Pacific streets, Monterey. $10/General; $5/Children; $8/Seniors. 375-4916. Through: 10/2.
Sound of Music, The Thursday through Sunday, 8pm. Musical. (Reviewed in this issue.) Outdoor Forest Theater, Santa Rita and Mountain View, Carmel. $15/General; $10/Children. 622-0700. Through: 9/26.
Flower Drum Song, The Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Musical. This Rodgers and Hammerstein musical presents the dilemma of Wang Ta, a young resident of San Francisco''s Chinatown, who is torn between his wealthy father''s traditions and the lure of American pop culture. His father arranges a wedding with an unknown Chinese "picture bride," but Ta is smitten with Chinese-American nightclub singer Linda Low, who represents for him all the glamour and class of his adopted country. The Western Stage Mainstage at Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. $20/General; $10/Children; $18/Seniors. 755-6816. Through: 9/11.