by Monica Trausch · June 19, 2014
Indie Artists on New Plays #117 Monica Trausch looks at Hot Season at the Sheen Center
When I walked into The Sheen Center this week to watch Strange Sun Theater’s production of Evan Mueller’s Hot Season, I was terrified for what I was about to see. Hot Season is described as “part comedy, part science fiction – and a dash of horror,” and I was fearful yet intrigued as to what a “horror” play might look like. Horror is a genre I most associate with film, so I was interested to see how Strange Sun Theater put horror on stage.
The play did not disappoint and gave me plenty to be frightened by. In the near future, a small group of friends and family escape the city for the summer, staying at an isolated cabin in the woods. But this is no summer vacation—the society they knew is crumbling due to a rapidly spreading and highly contagious disease. The gang is living in fear of the disease, and have quarantined themselves to prevent further exposure and contamination. They insist they will only stay in the cabin for the hot summer months, and hope that by the time the weather gets cooler, the disease will have died down and they can go back to their normal lives.
But they’ve already lost so much. Jacob lost his father and his girlfriend. Marla lost her ex-boyfriend. They have all lost the world they once knew, and are stuck playing Risk and badminton to distract themselves from the horrifying lesions that grow on the victims of the illness. Soon, the friends begin to fight and bicker. Suddenly, Marla notices that Anne, Jacob’s mom, has a small lesion on her neck. Hot Season is life in a vacuum, and examines what we must do when our lives and our world are at stake. Can these characters do the unthinkable to survive? I won’t go into further detail, so as not to ruin the suspense of this thrilling piece. As the great horror film director Alfred Hitchcock once said, “The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement.”
The excellent direction by Kevin Kittle aided in making the audience really understand the enclosed, intimate nature of this cabin in the woods. The characters felt close and familial but incredibly trapped and crowded, desperate to stay healthy and sane. Ben Williams designed a remarkable set, complete with a water pump, creepy hidden room, and infected toad guts on the walls. The Sound Design and Original Music by Ryder McNair were excellent—filmic, even—reminding me of traditional horror film soundtracks. McNair’s fantastic artistry stayed with me. Look to Hot Season for fear, lots of fun, impressive production quality, and most of all, horror.