At first glance, they might not be the most desirable bunch of characters you’re going to come across, but according to Rosanne Raneri and Lindsay Lucas, they’re very likable.
“I love this group of characters,” said Raneri, who plays April Green in Lanford Wilson’s “the Hot L Baltimore,” beginning Friday night at 8 at Albany Civic Theater. “They’re so quirky and charming. I read the play a long time ago, and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for it because of the characters.”
The 1973 Obie (off-Broadway) Award winner for Best Play, “The Hot L Baltimore” tells the story of a group of people living in the Hotel Baltimore, a decaying piece of property as indicated by the missing e in the building’s neon sign. Representative of America’s lower middle class, the characters in the play all have trials and tribulations they’re dealing with, and Lucas’ character, a prostitute referred to as “the girl,” seems to be particularly challenged.
‘The Hot L Baltimore’
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: Pay-what-you-will preview tonight. Regular run is 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday through May 17.
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 462-1297 or www.albanycivictheater.org/nowplaying.html
“Yes, but she’s still very likable and quite charming,” said Lucas, who got her degree in theater from SUNY-New Paltz. “I like it that she’s a real doer. She gets something in her head and once she’s set that it’s important, she’s true to it to the very end. She’s a person who’s willing to help.”
Play still resonates
Helping others is also a regular pastime for Raneri’s character.
“April is sassy and earthy, she’s got a wicked sense of humor, and deep down she has this really big heart and she wants to take care of this great group of characters,” said Raneri. “She understands that if you take this world too seriously it will crush you, so sometimes she doesn’t want to deal with it all, but she has a good head on her shoulders and she sees what’s going on.”
According to director Dan Stott, Wilson’s play and his characters still resonate with audiences nearly 40 years after it was written.
“It takes you through one Memorial Day in 1973 at a hotel scheduled to be destroyed in a month, and it’s a wonderful slice of life that’s still relevant today,” he said. “When I first read the play, I really identified with it and thought how much the culture of 1973 is similar to the culture of today. I really like the play because it’s a mirror to the economic situation we’re in today. It’s about the forgotten America, and that’s what the characters and the hotel itself represent. The hotel is another character in the play.”
“Hot L Baltimore” is a serious play about adults and adult situations, but there are also some very funny moments in Wilson’s drama.
“It has a serious tone to it and it’s not for young audiences,” said Stott. “But, the way Wilson lays out the play, the process of following these people, who are not quite right, through the course of this one day becomes very funny.”
Auditions for “Hot L Baltimore” drew the largest crowd Stott has seen at a community theater.
“In all my experience as an actor and director, I can’t remember ever this many people coming out for an audition,” he said. “But it’s a great play, and it’s a great ensemble piece, so there are quite a few good parts and a lot of people interested in those parts. Wilson is one of the great American playwrights, and it seemed like this play just had a significant buzz around it ever since it was announced on our schedule.”
Eye on L.A.
That may have been the case for much of the cast, but Lucas admitted she didn’t know that much about “Hot L Baltimore” when she signed up for auditions.
“I had just completed a short film in the area, and I hadn’t done any theater since college,” said Lucas, 23. “What I really want to do is move to L.A. and pursue a film career. But before I do that I thought it’d be a good idea to do some theater and learn how other people process their character. I couldn’t really find out that much about the play before, but I’m very glad I tried out and got the part. It’s a great role.”
Working with her character, “the girl,” has been a great way to hone her acting skills.
“She’s a 19-year-old prostitute who’s having a bit of an identity crisis,” said Lucas, who spent much of her young life in Kinderhook, graduated from Ichabod Crane High School and now lives in Troy. “She changes her name once a week; she goes through three different names during the course of the play, and she’s a high school dropout who left school when she was a junior and started traveling the country by train. She’s obsessed with trains, and she’s a genius in geography.”
Like Lucas, Raneri is returning to the theater after taking a break from acting.
“Now seemed like the right time to take a chance again,” said Raneri, who has been teaching theater at Hudson Valley Community Theater and outside of directing a production there, hasn’t been on the stage in 10 years. “I was turned on by this play, and I thought it was time for me to turn myself on again to acting. Now that I’ve done it, I see myself being completely reinvigorated. I’m excited about doing this play, and I’m excited about doing something in the future.”
Raneri first started performing in junior high school. After graduating from Columbia High School she attended SUNY-Geneseo where she got a degree in theater.
“Working on this production has been great, and Dan Stott has just been the ideal director,” said Raneri. “He’s so generous and respectful, and is always open to actors’ feedback. He encourages us to invent things and explore the possibilities of our character, and that’s really been inspiring.”
Both women are performing for the first time at Albany Civic, and both are happy with the experience.
“You hear things about theater companies and how some of them are cliquey and pretentious, but everyone here has been very helpful and friendly,” said Lucas. “I may be new here, but I don’t feel alienated in any way.”
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Categories: Life and Arts