HOT & COLD
In the hot zone of a level-four biohazard lab, two quarantined scientists experiment with a deadly pathogen. At the same time, in the cold chill of an ordinary suburban kitchen, an out-of-her-depth Jewish mother prepares a Christmas dinner for her son, his Catholic fiancé, and her gruff father… while they negotiate the terms of the young couple’s interfaith wedding. When the distinct worlds of the lab and the kitchen begin bleeding surreally together, however, the deeper and more disturbing truth of what they’re all experiencing begins to infect them all. Is there a cure for being both hot and cold at the same time?
Commissioned, workshopped, and read by Theater J. Workshop directed by Eleanor Holdridge; dramaturgy by Grace Overbeke; design dramaturgy by Deb Sevigny. Featuring Jennifer Mendenhall, John Lescault, Deborah Hazlett, Michael Russotto, Heather Haney, and James Flanagan.
I would like to be able to say that this play sprung forth easily and naturally from my mind… but it most certainly did not. When I first started writing, I told myself (and the kind people who commissioned it from me) that I was telling a very different story. The play I ended up developing — which is much more surreal and strange and funny than I ever expected — absolutely took me by surprise. I have heard other playwrights say this same thing, but I never understood until now. The honest truth is that, if I’d known what kind of play I needed to write, I might have been too afraid to write it. So I think I told myself a little lie to be able to make this happen. Good for you, Gwydion’s mind. Well done.
My difficulty with this play comes from two directions. First, the style. Without spoiling too much of the story, I can tell you that it relies in some depth on a variety of lighting and physical effects. I’ve written quite a bit in the past about how much I loathe empty spectacle in theater, which made it hard for me to accept the fact that I needed to use spectacle — the meaningful, symbolic kind — to do what I wanted to do. I had to get comfortable with it, and it took time. Working with a great, generous designer helped immensely.
What really made this play difficult to write, however, was how immensely personal it is. I just plain can’t say more at the moment. I will, once I’ve figured out how, but not yet. It’s not that writing the play made me wrestle with inner demons in any way — not any more than any of them do, at least. Writing it meant wrestling with somebody else’s demons. But obfuscating language fails me here. I’ll have to update this page when I’m read to say more.
I think this play has a lot to say about matters that are becoming increasingly divisive in America. We are a country wholly engaged in a secular vs. non-secular war — I’m as guilty of participating as the next person, mind you — and the ways in which we are divided from one another are (to my mind) crazy-making. I think we’ve become insane with anger, and it’s time to imagine a new way to heal. This play, in part, is my vision for a grand reunion. Some might find it offensive, some bewildering… but it’s mine, and I own it. At the very least, I trust it will invite (or incite?) a few great and necessary conversations. May they happen before it’s too late.