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'The Hot L Baltimore' at RCC

Rogue Community College's Riverside Theatre Program will stage Lanford Wilson's Obie Award-winning play, "The Hot L Baltimore," at RCC's Warehouse on Bartlett street in Medford, in what could be the last show to be produced there.

The aging building over the years has served as home to a revolving number of classes and events, including plays.

But according to theater teachers John Cole and Ron Danko who have put plays on there for the past six years, the space no longer can sustain such an intense level of use anymore.

It's only appropriate that in this very funny play, set in troubled times, there's a bulldozer knocking at the hotel door as well.

The show will open at 8 p.m. Friday, May 1, and run at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through May 16; 2 p.m. Sundays, May 3 and 17; and 7 p.m. Sunday, May 10.

The story unfolds on Memorial Day 1974 in the seedy lobby of the aging Hotel Baltimore on the eve of its demolition. The word "Hotel" in the marquee is missing the letter "e," hence the title "The Hot L Baltimore."

The play celebrates the wayward street hustlers, prostitutes and poverty-stricken seniors who exist on the frayed edges of the American Dream in an hilarious plea for a kinder, gentler world. The New York Times called it "a warm, intelligent, and wonderful evening in the Theatre "¦ an unbeatable winner."

"The Hot L Baltimore" first opened off-Broadway to a record 1,166 performances before moving to Broadway, where it played for over three years. Wilson's play won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the Best American Play of 1972—73. It also won an Obie Award for best off-Broadway play, an Outer Critics Award and the John Gassner Playwriting award. The play was sold to ABC and adapted as a situation comedy.

Wilson's "Talley's Folly" (1979) won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award.

With "The Hot L Baltimore," Wilson sought to craft a work that would give voice to his mourning for the increasing disappearance of the nation's railroads, architecture and cultural heritage. It's a taste of music on vinyl in a digital world.

Cole and Danko direct a cast of 15. The two chose the play partly because of the size of the cast.

"This cast is uniquely suited for this play," Danko said. "It's probably the best-cast show that we've done in the six years. Considering the people who came out for auditions, we really couldn't have done any other play — once again, it feels like it was meant to be. We've got five actors we've worked with in the past. This is the oldest cast we've had at The Warehouse."

The cast members are Marcus Ueberall, Mig Windows, Jennifer Phillips, Julie Amador, Arden Prehn, Russ Mitchell, Zoe Wright, Nathan Steinberg, David Dials, Amber Schroeder, Robert Day, Arthur Ellis, Lulu Lion, William Quayle and Boyd Wiltsey.

Danko knew the show, having reviewed it in 1973 as a fellow critic in the O'Neill National Critics Institute in Waterford, Conn. "It's very timely," Danko said. "So many are soon to be or currently being dislocated just like the fine denizens of the Hotel."

As much as the two have enjoyed directing plays at the Warehouse, they admit to being tired. "The wrecking ball can't come soon enough," Cole said. "It's a lot to build and break down the theater every time we rehearse. It would be enough just to pull off the production. Even though many consider our space one of the best small houses in the valley, nobody gets how much work is required to produce, direct, design and teach acting in that very busy, over-shared, multi-use space."

Costume and make-up design is by Pamela Alford, production, stage management and lighting is by Matthew Scheytt. Heath Rackman is assistant stage manager and sound operator. Karl Brake and Thayne Abraham are the scenic artists. Assistant scenic artist and wardrobe designer is Shawn Fennel. Set construction is by Dan Evison. Nancy Grosjean is props mistress and is assisted by Richard Grosjean and Barbara Brown.

The play contains explicit language and adult situations and is not suitable for children.

Tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for students and $5 for RCC students. Reservations are recommended. For reservations, call 245-7637.

Rogue Community College's Riverside Theatre will stage Lanford Wilson's 'The Hot L Baltimore.' - RCC