Lanford Wilson's "Hot l Baltimore" had 1,166 Off-Broadway performances, won the Critics' Circle "Best American Play" award of '72-'73 and now has its first area production at the University of Maryland, College Park.
I didn't care for this play about a run-down hotel when I first saw it and still don't. Wilson gave us no character of compelling sympathy, and as a viewer I find empathy - with at least one person - vital to drama.
Inevitably, one think of Baltimore's old Belvedere with its ounce-sumptuous lobby. Now it's a pad for prosties, not necessarily the hearts of gold type, oldsters and the aimless. One exception is "The Girl," who attempts to help a young man locate his grandfather, who at least visited the hotel. (Inexplicably, he loses interest.) The script lacks a true focus and the adventure dwindles off; all are as we met them and if the hotel's going, so what?
University of Maryland settings (here by C. H. Vaughn III) always look impressive and generally, director Ionia Zelenka has handled the staging awarely, though the fuzzy ending is even fuzzier than it need be. I found Rose Anne McGarrity, as "The Girl," and Cheryl A. Peitz, as April, more than capable.Nor is the shape of the big Tawes University Theater helpful in projecting what was difficult enough in the original arena style staging. There are further performances tonight at 8, Sunday at 2 p.m. and again next Thursday through Saturday.