Review: ‘The Hot L Baltimore’ at Falcon’s Eye Theatre
When The Hot L Baltimore opened on Broadway in 1973, playwright Lanford Wilson was lauded for his edgy portrayal of scruffy residents facing eviction from a once fancy, but now fading, seedy hotel. Wilson’s technique was to magnify the characters instead of plot, and to rely on passing references and interchanges between actors to display the desperation and deterioration of both place and people.
David Harris, theater professor at Folsom Lake College and director of Falcon’s Eye Theatre’s current production of The Hot L Baltimore, zeroed in on this spotlighting of characters and their harsh realities. The play gives his students “an opportunity at creating characters whose aspirations are lost, while presenting acting techniques,” according to Harris.
As with all productions at Falcon’s Eye Theatre, drama students work alongside more seasoned actors to present this story of a sundry hotel staff, down-on-their-luck residents, young prostitutes and pop-in guests.
The cast is an enthusiastic one, tackling social issues and their characters’ personal demons with a whirl of conversations and overlapping dialogue. Unfortunately, the play’s the problem, not this production. There’s a reason this play isn’t staged much any more: what we get is a hodgepodge of characters with little insight and few backstories or motivations, leaving us with no real plots or characters to care about.
Despite this, the cast works well with what they are given, providing funny, sad, sentimental and desperate moments set to period-perfect songs, all on a beautiful backdrop of a crumbling, once majestic lobby of the Art Deco Hotel Baltimore.