2. Review of WHITE HOT (May 6, 2013)
The Kentucky Derby is over but the new theatre season hasn’t been able to do more than stumble out of the gate yet, if the first two plays I’ve seen are any indication. Previously, I noted how long the 65 minutes of OLD-FASHIONED PROSTITUTES seemed to my wife. But after sitting through the 53 minutes of WHITE HOT, by Tommy Smith, in the tiny basement venue at the Flea Theatre, she said it was longest 53 minutes of her life. I’ll have to take her to one of those ten-minute play festivals to see how she responds. Personally, though, I’ve spent longer 53 minutes in the theatre, but I have to admit that the play, for all its profanity and simulated sex, was as far from being “white hot” as Falling Sky was from winning the Derby.
The show’s PR blurb says this about its plot: “Lil, married and pregnant, tries to find salvation in a simple life. Her sister, Sis, escapes reality through the abuse of drugs and vacant sexual relationships. Their lives collide in an epic portrait of self-destruction, led by Lil’s oblivious husband Bri, and a sexual mercenary named Grig. A brutal comedy about how cruel we can be to the ones we love, when we want what they have.” This more or less sums up what happens in the play, directed by Courtney Ulrich, although I never quite realized that Grig (Sean McIntyre) was a sexual mercenary; I thought he was a back specialist with a particularly violent way of banging the pain out of Lil’s (Janice Amaya) aching back.
Benson Knight is credited as set designer although all he seems to have done is paint the walls black, add venetian blinds to the window spaces, and provide a few white-painted wooden set pieces, like chairs and a bench. The tech elements, as this suggests, are barebones minimal, and all that remains to keep the audience’s hearts beating is the acting. Since the only people to get up and leave when the show ended were myself and my wife, my suspicion is that the few audible reactions in the audience during the play were those of friends and relatives, many of whom held bottles of beer purchased at the concession in the lobby. Somehow, though, I don’t think a bottle of Bud (or even a Heineken) would have further endeared this effort to me.
As is often the case with plays featuring the Bats, the Flea’s young resident acting company, there is some actual talent on the stage, especially Jamie Bock as Sis, the drug and sex-addled sister of the pregnant Lil. She very believably captures the hopped-up, motor mouthed, disaffected attitude of a junky, and a scene where she is supposed to have just come out of the ocean soaking wet and freezing cold is played with true conviction; still, she delivers her lines in such low-key, conversational tones that many of her words get lost. And I was seated only a few feet away.
Verdict: WHITE HOT, I’m afraid, is simply not so hot.