News reporters know that the dog days of August bring out the silly news stories -- it's a combination of end of summer and the lightheadedness that comes from a string of hot-hot-hot days. Taylor Mac Bower has set his phantasmagoric stew of a play, The Hot Month, in the Southwest, where 110º in the shade is a cool spell, and everyone has a case of the summer crazies. And what a bunch they are.
There's Len (Paul Caiola), who shows up in the weirdest places at the most unexpected times; Griffin (Vince Gatton), who's running away to Mexico for reasons even he doesn't find compelling; Mag (Samantha Dezs), who goes into labor in a gas-station toilet; Joseph (Ken Bolden), the gas-station attendant who has a connection with one or more of the above; and Red Hawk (Pamela Dunlap), who, well, she's the most fun of all, even though she makes the rest of them look sane. But electroshock therapy will do that to you, as she will be the first (and loudest) to admit.
What they're all doing and why they're doing it is of less importance than who they are -- The Hot Month isn't really a character study, but the information keeps pouring out. Where this production really excelled was in Marc Parees's direction -- five or six things happening on stage (well, maybe two, but it seemed like five or six), and all of it clear and evocative. Dreams, meaningful parallel occurrences, life and death (of course!), time shifts, hanging out a speeding car's windows -- and then there's the tooth necklace and the bottle of Astroglide that sure did get around. And even though none of it makes a bit of difference, the actors all did wonders -- it was simultaneously (everything is simultaneous in this play) funny and touching. Caiola had an openness that would seem to contradict the volumes of trivia he detailed but it's real and he was funny too; Gatton was good at panic and discomfort once he'd accepted a ride from the lunatic Dunlap, who got more laughs as the crazy lady with a need for speed than any other mortal could. Bolden had real pathos as the poor schlub who takes his affection where he can get it, and Dezs was a marvel of brashness and vulnerability, particularly as she recited the fable of the fat princess.
The precise and warm lighting (Carrie Wood) and sound (Ernie Rich) furnished the stage as much as the set (Katherine McCauley), which was simple but effective. Overt symbolism started to rear its ugly head near the end of the play, but it didn't put a damper on things. Coherent in its incoherence, The Hot Month's fragmentation is its biggest strength and its biggest drawback. And so much was going on that even a stage accident was assumed to be part of the action. It was a ride that careened around lots of corners, but it was quite an experience.
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Copyright 2003 David Mackler