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Monday, June 6, 2016

Rush to see Mosaic's 'January' hit in June

From left, Vaughn Ryan Midder is Jeron and Jeremy Keith Hunter is Devaun in When January Feels Like Summer at Mosaic Theater Company, now through June 12, 2016/Photo by Stan Barouh

At intermission I turned to my seatmate and said:  "I love this!" And I wasn't the only one.

Laughter from the audience sometimes drowned out the dialogue, and that was okay!  Everyone was having a good time, even a woman near the front who said she couldn't hear.

Never mind. It's time to leave our worries behind us and enjoy.
From left, Shravan Amin is Ishan and Indira, and Lynette Rathnam is Nirmala in When January Feels Like Summer at Mosaic Theater Company, now through June 12, 2016/Photo by Stan Barouh

Mosaic Theater Company's When January Feels Like Summer now onstage at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street is sheer delight, so much fun from beginning to end, with never a laggard in it, as it zooms into the stratosphere right from the get-go when I had experienced a mental quick flash a few seconds before liftoff of "Oh, no. Not another 'message' play. Haven't we had enough of these already?

(But when is a play not a message play?)

And before the thought could finish its roll through my brain, it collapsed mid-sentence, overcome by January and the rockin' New York subway and two hip lads (Jeremy Keith Hunter who is Devaun, and Vaughn Ryan Midder is Jeron) jumping on the train and the rumble, jumble of lives of five New Yorkers begin to unfold. (David Lamont Wilson's sounds help to quickly reproduce the Big Apple in January.)

It doesn't take long for alll the actors to meet and cross paths.  Besides Jeron and Devaun there's Nirmala (skillfully presented by Lynette Rathnam), Ishan and Indira (an incredible metamorphosis by Shravan Amin), and Joe (Jason B. McIntosh, a reject who portrays his loneliness with distinction).

Without question, the show stealer is Mr. Hunter. He and Jeron discuss current issues and how to woo women. Devaun's training techniques are a riot. 

Which brings me to question the frequent costume changes for the two young menDesigner Robert Croghan dressed the duo appropriately enough, but why so many outfits?

January's got "contemporary language" all right with F and S bombs aplenty, but in this modern-day setting, the bombs fit, and are not as offensive as those heard in settings where they add nothing to content.

The various props from difference scenes (by Debra Booth and Michelle Elwyn) generally remain stationary on stage and go dark with scene switches, not as distracting as it may sound.  Speaking of, the mechanical breathing machine for the invisible patient on life support behind the curtain with the red blinking light is memorable and lives on!

As the end of the evening approaches, you wonder and gasp:  Will he or won't he? And I doubt anyone guesses what happens next.  

Cori Thomas's play embraces contemporary issues at a fast pace, meaning dialogue which doesn't languish and allow your mind to escapeIt opened Off-Broadway in 2014 and won a New York Times Critics Pick choice and earlier, an American Theatre Critics Association award for new play by an emerging playwright.  That tells you something, right?
You won't leave the play down in the mouth or wondering "what was that all about?"  You'll be skipping down the sidewalk, smiling and laughing with the rest of the theatergoers who pondered the exchanges just seen, but perhaps the lady doth flatter too much.

We can journey into the lives of others and may find a reason or two to be more respectful of them who differ from you and me on the street, in the shops, or on the Metro, but ain't we all got stories?  Funny ones, at that.

The production's vitality and professionalism belies far more than Mosaic's 18 months' life, but that's the combination and magic of producer/director Serge Seiden and artistic director Ari Roth who left Theater J after two decades and birthed his new "kid on the H Street block" in late 2014.  January ends Mosaic's first season.

The new Atlas Performing Arts Center is an excellent venue with a large lobby and comfortable, stacked theater seating so none is bad or blocked.  And there are ample stalls in the women's restroom for a speedy in and out! Amazing.
The only thing I would change about the whole affair is the title of the play: Rather droll for all the lively content, like a dull book title and equally boring jacket that no one stops to pick up from the bookstore table.

With only a single week left, there's a rush on H Street.

Other January crew members are Max Doolittle, lighting designer, William M. Woodard, technical director, and Allie Roy, production stage manager

What:  When January Feels Like Summer by Cori Thomas

When:  Now through June 12, 2016

Where:  Lang Theatre, Atlas Performing Arts Center,  1333 H Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002  (Ride the free streetcar from Union Station, but never on Sundays when it doesn't run.)

Advance valet parking reservations available for $20 or park for free on the street like I did (on a Sunday).

How much: Tickets start at $40, but there are discounts for seniors, students, military, first responders, neighbors, those under age 30, and rush tickets for $25, if any seats are left 30 minutes before show time,

Tickets:  Buy online, phone (202-399-7993, ext. 2), or at the box office.

Duration:  Two and a half hours with one intermission. 

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