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The Hot Month

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

If The Hot Month is any indication, to playwright Taylor Mac Bowyer the intricacies of human relationships are concepts as nebulous of those of space and time. That concept is at the heart of the Boomerang Theatre Company's new play at Center Stage/NY, which demonstrates through time-tested theatrical procedures that letting go the people and things of the past is a most difficult challenge.

The past and the present and the here and the there intermingle throughout The Hot Month. Certain scenes of the story take place out of sequence, and it's not uncommon for one character to be in two different scenes simultaneously. More interesting is that Len (Paul Caiola), confined to a hospital bed, can appear in the thoughts and dreams of the people whose lives he's touched and affect their lives accordingly. It's primarily through the keen directorial strokes of Marc Parees that the thread of the story is never lost.

But that story is not always fleshed out as well as it could be, tending to rely on its theatricality and eccentricity of writing to replace what isn't always established well dramatically. The best defined of the characters is the central figure, Griffin (Vince Gatton) who embarks (or escapes) on a journey of self-discovery when he accepts that Len, his longtime friend and lover, is never going to recover.

The other characters feel more like symbols than people. The lesbian nomad Red Hawk (Pamela Dunlap) who meets up with Griffin and offers to drive him to Mexico is by turns the show's comic relief and a representative of the Native American spirit that still haunts the American southwest. Bowyer's twist is that she's actually just a white woman who was a Hopi in two of her previous lives. Most of Red Hawk's lines, while amusing, don't match that cleverness. Len's sister, Mag (Samantha Dezs), is pregnant with a baby she forgot about, despite not having been with a man. And the gay gas station attendant Joseph (Ken Bolden) provides a link between the wandering Griffin and the homebound Mag, but is too subtly drawn to make much of an impression.

Bowyer's writing never ceases to be interesting throughout, though he often wants to play too many of his cards at once. Having Len narrate the show and drive the other characters' actions is an effective application of Bowyer's underlying conceit, and he gets some good moments out of it, such as Len using a lighting instrument (on an extension cord) to represent the sun and a campfire. But the show's prologue - in which all five characters meditate on time and its impact on the English language - feels a bit redundant when the points are made more clearly (and effectively) over the course of the dramatic action.

The actors are all fine, though Dunlap walks away with almost all the show's laughs. Katherine McCauley's set design of muted oranges, yellows, and reds effectively sets the tone for the vastness and dreary colorfulness of the southwestern setting.

But it would be hard for either McCauley or the show's performers to bring much heat to their work. The Hot Month is imbued with enough warmth and curiosity to suggest the desert at dusk, but is, overall, a series of well-considered ideas and concepts that, despite their theatrical value, lack the emotional components that would really let the play and its messages catch fire.

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Boomerang Theatre Company
The Hot Month
Through September 14
Running Time: One hour and twenty minutes with no intermission
Center Stage/NY, 48 West 21st Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, 4th Floor
Schedule and Tickets: 212.501.4069