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THEATER REVIEW: “Hot l Baltimore” houses cheerful chaos

The once-elegant Hotel Baltimore has long since lost its class and spiffy clientele, along with the “E” in its sign. It’s now a flophouse where the water supply is often in question, hookers turn tricks and the socially discarded live out their days. But next month they’ll have to go elsewhere: The hotel is slated for demolition.

The hotel’s residents are a quirky lot. Night clerk Bill (Thomas Miller) has to deal with tough-talking Jackie (Carissa Cash) and her little brother Jamie (Marco Estrada), about to chase a dream to Utah; old checkers-playing Mr. Morse (Samuel Hunter), paranoid and short of fuse (Hunter also serves as assistant director); and the touch of class that still remains, retired Southern belle waitress Millie (Kristen Mowry), who seems to have wandered in from a “Streetcar Named Desire” set.

But this show belongs to the three prostitutes: beautiful but volatile Suzy (Brianna Hill), dressed in fire-engine red and outrageous shoes and dragging a john (Kevin Matthew Reyes) with her; down-to-earth April Green (Claire Kaplan), always ready with a clever quip and sometimes a foul mouth; and the motormouth Girl (Katharine Chin), a call girl who hasn’t picked a name but knows the schedule of every train that comes through, and insists on “helping” Bill at the front desk.

Sad Mrs. Bellotti (Naomi Cohen) plods through, moving boxes containing the effects of alcoholic son Horse, earlier relocated from the hotel to rehab.

Then there’s enigmatic stranger Paul Granger III (Taylor Dean), who spends most of the first act curled in a chair on the periphery.

UCSD’s Kim Rubinstein makes full use of the deep work space of the Arthur Wagner Theatre in her direction of this raucous undergraduate production of Lanford Wilson’s 1973 “Hot l Baltimore.”

Here the office phone rings often (though that would have contributed more to the cheerful chaos had the desk been moved in five feet or so) and several conversations and contrasting actions happen simultaneously around the checkers match in the middle.

Rubinstein plays this for laughs and succeeds brilliantly, and though the poignant aspects of loss of home get a little lot in the hilarity, this approach provides a fine evening’s entertainment.

Hurry, it closes Saturday.

The details

“Hot l Baltimore” plays through Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Arthur Wagner Theatre on the UCSD campus.

Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.

For ticket,s call (858) 534-4574 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.