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Saturday, 03 December 2011 12:50

Hotel Baltimore was missing more than just an E

Written by Shahnaz Ahmed
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I know Hot L is an old chestnut of the theatre repertoire, but frankly I never got into it.  Hot L Baltimore is a story about a hotel that is going to be demolished in a month and its several interesting tenants.  But that’s exactly what was wrong with it.  I felt there was too much and I wasn’t hooked by the plot or story line.

The play started with Bill (Kyle Acheson) and the Girl (Lexie Thompkins) at the front desk of the hotel, acting as their characters.  I could not feel their chemistry and was trying to place the who, whats and whys.  To the credit of the actors, I will say that they did warm up and their chemistry became apparent towards the end.

 The cast included several others.  Millie (Ellen Bryan) plays a sweet old lady who can read Tarot cards, fortunes and was just the zen character.  Mrs. Belloti (Shaina Schrooten) played the character of a woman who requests the manager Mr. Katz (Joey Otradovec) to allow her psychotic son to stay longer at the place.  The brother - sister combination of Jackie and Jamie (Nyssa Duchow and Jimmy Betts) was confusing to me.  I did not understand Jackie’s motivations or her behaviors and I couldn’t really empathize with her character.  My favorite character was Mr. Morse (Scears Lee IV), a grumpy old man, with an interesting German accent and an interesting way of playing checkers.  There are more characters and more scenes.  The distracting part was that I felt two circumstances taking place simultaneously and didn’t know which event to follow.  I understand the realism in life and in a hotel such things happen, but for a play, I felt distracted. There is very brief female nudity on stage as Suzy, the prostitute (Meagan Stevenson) runs off without her towel.

I must say that the director (Doug Finlayson) did a great job with what he had.  A play that was very busy with a host of characters, and he was able to pull it all together for maximum effectiveness.  I did not understand the need to boil water in a kettle, several times for tea but other than that, there was great action and movement on the stage that was effective.

The credit to this play goes completely to the set design (Loren Joseph Borja), sound (Tom Haverkamp) and lighting (Anthony T. Boyajian).  A spectacular job done there.  I felt entranced by the realism of the set.  The front desk of the 70s with several wires to connect to a phone, the front door of the hotel which was up center stage with the words ‘Hotel Baltimore’ printed in the glass, an old record player playing 78s all worked in great unison.  Even the costumes (Ray Kiely) were effective for the 70s.

Hot L Baltimore is playing at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts, Theatre III, at Webster University.  If you do plan to go, the show starts at 7:30pm and plays till December 11.

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