By Zach Wegner; Directed by Jaclyn Biskup
Part of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 8.23.14
Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Greg Solomon on 8.14.14
Zach Wegner and Braeson Herold in Hot Steams. Photo by Jaclyn Biskup.
BOTTOM LINE: Better suited for an audience with a passion for classic literature, Hot Steams is a verbose examination of the thin line between the real and imaginary in a post-modern prison.
In Hot Steams, two prisoners in a dystopian future are forced to share a cell. The Man Awake (Playwright Zach Wegner) is counting down the days to his release and passing the time with a combination of heavy reading and polishing the skulls of animals. He’s been incarcerated for grave robbing, an offense which he does not believe deserves this level of punishment. His cellmate The Sleeping Man (a magnetic Braeson Herold) is wearing a Santa suit with no memory of how he arrived. An unlikely friendship forms between the two as The Sleeping Man is exposed to the prose that The Man Awake holds so dear. However, the Officer (Garrett Neergaard) is actually using The Sleeping Man to find proof that The Man Awake is guilty of a far worse crime.
Shifting between extensive bits of prose, both from the annals of literature and from the mind of the playwright, and far darker thoughts of torture, murder and molestation, we follow the cellmates through the final days of The Man Awake’s incarceration. I fully admit to not being nearly as well-read as I thought, finding many aspects of the piece quite difficult to follow. If I were a literati, perhaps I would have found a great deal more to enjoy in the evening (I’m trying to use as many ten point words as I can here in an effort to keep up!)
The performances and Jaclyn Biskup’s direction were all quite good, although at times it felt as though they were leaving the audience behind with important pieces of exposition glossed over while spending more time on flights of fancy. But this is all integral to the feeling of the piece with a central character who escapes his reality with such flights.
(Hot Steams plays at Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 23, 2014. Remaining performances are Wednesday 8/20 at 9:15PM and Saturday 8/23 at 12PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org.)