Symbolism Imbues the ‘Hot l Baltimore’


Making do with less and less, yet finding occasional moments of humor, connection and even poetry a few steps ahead of the wrecking ball--it’s a full-time job for the seedy residents of the once-elegant “Hot l Baltimore.”

Yet in some respects, Lanford Wilson’s meandering 1973 portrait now seems more of a prophetic metaphor of a society whose glory days are behind it than a plea for tolerance and compassion for those on its fringes.

The hookers, deadbeats and fugitives who populate Wilson’s dilapidated universe may not have the same bleeding heartstrings to tug at these days, but a superb ensemble cast under Maria Gobetti’s direction makes the Little Victory Theatre’s revival resonate with conviction, laughs and sympathy.


That’s essential, given Wilson’s minimal plotting. The riveting characterizations include an aging, wisecracking prostitute (Susan Kussman), a retired waitress clinging to her last shreds of dignity (Doris Hess), and a bouncy, idealistic call girl (Sydney Bennett) whose electric enthusiasm propels the piece at full throttle. In a particularly poignant subplot involving a larcenous sociopath (Jacqueline Samuda, who impresses with sullen fury despite an unconvincing Buffalo accent) saddled with a mentally impaired brother (Jeff Parise), we feel the impact of a safety net with ever-widening holes.

* “Hot l Baltimore,” Little Victory Theatre, 3324 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Dec. 22. $17. (818) 841-5421. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.