The Hotel Baltimore looks like the last stop on the train ride of life. The elevator's boarded up; there's no hot water (and the cold water is orange); the exterior sign is so dilapidated the letter "e" is missing from the word "hotel."
Nor is the clientele what it used to be back in the days when this Baltimore inn was "the most exclusive medium-sized hotel anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard line," as one character puts it. But what a colorful clientele it is!
Lanford Wilson's "Hot L Baltimore" is primarily a character vehicle, and its characters are portrayed with panache in the Everyman Theatre production at the Vagabonds.
Director Vincent Lanchisi, who founded Everyman, says the company's focus is ensemble work. He couldn't have chosen a better script to show off the potential of this relatively new troupe.
The script also shows off Mr. Lanchisi's ability to choreograph pandemonium, when the tenants' conflicting personalities clash.
There's cynical April, the blowzy hooker who's seen it all, portrayed by Brilane Bowman; Suzy, none-too-bright but all-too-trusting practitioner of the same trade, played with bubble-headed exuberance by Connie Winston; Jackie, the mean-spirited sister of gentle-but-slow Jamie, played by Johanna Rodriguez and Daniel Escobar, respectively, with appropriately
Then there's Millie, a retired waitress who believes in spirits and, as played by Sabine Herts, almost seems like one herself; and Mr. Morse, a disgruntled old coot, crustily portrayed by James Potter.
Even in this quirky crowd, Audrey Wasilewski stands out as a ditsy young call girl with the misplaced vivacity of a high school cheerleader.
In contrast, the hotel employees are relatively lackluster, as are their portrayals by Brian Applestein, Sean McDonough and Alison Claire. Similarly, Kyle Prue lacks a hard enough edge as another outsider -- a former college student/drug dealer who wanders through looking for his grandfather.
Although it is rich in characterization, this work is thin on plot. The hotel is about to be demolished and the play takes place on the day the residents get their eviction notices. This will, of course, lead to the dissolution of the iconoclastic "Hot L" family Mr. Wilson has assembled. The heartfelt portrayals by the Everyman cast, make this seem like a genuine loss, indeed.
@'The Hot L Baltimore'
When: Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
0$ Sundays, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Through Sept. 15.
Where: Everyman Theatre at the
Vagabond Theatre, 806 South Broadway.