The welcome arrival of the Mosaic Theater Company of DC on the local theatre scene is punctuated by When January Feels Like Summer. The heartwarming and frequently funny Cori Thomas play about the interlocking relationships of five commonplace Harlem residents provides a winning exclamation point to Mosaic’s memorable first season.
Devaun (Jeremy Keith Hunter) and Jeron (Vaughn Ryan Midder) are two young African Americans men who dream of a better, more consequential life than working in fast food restaurants. The talkative friends discuss life, love, and the weather in ways that demonstrate Thomas’s facility with amusing dialogue.
When Devaun reports that he may have been approached in a convenience store by a possibly gay predator (or “predictor” as stated by the less articulate and malaprop-prone member of the pair), Jeron concludes that it is their civic duty to post warning signs in the neighborhood. That quest brings them into a local convenience store operated by Nirmala and her brother Ishan.
Nermala (Lynette Rathnam) is having a tough time. Her husband has been in a brain-dead coma for three years. Nermala is torn over her duties to an unavailable spouse who brought her and Ishan (Shravan Amin) from India to Harlem.
Further complicating Nermala’s life is Ishan’s recent acceptance of his true identify as a transgender woman and his decision to start making the transition from a former accountant named Ishan to an aspiring matchmaker named Indira. Ishan/Indira seeks Nermala’s support, both emotionally and financially. Additionally, Nermala is the subject of romantic interest by Joe (Jason B. McIntosh), a gentlemanly but shy garbage man.
The story features multiple winning relationships. Jeron is generally more intelligent and articulate than his buddy Devaun (despite being convinced that the quality of local recycling has a nearly immediate impact on global warming, helping explain the play’s title). On the other hand, Devaun has a winning way with the ladies. His attempts to coach Jeron on how to call up a girl and “reduce yourself” and his demonstrations of flirting skills are hilarious.
Devaun later turns his wooing skills to the transgender Indira. She accepts a date from the younger Devaun in part because he’s the first man ever to tell her she’s attractive, despite the fact that she knows little about him other than his fear of homosexuals. Indira and Nermala also have a natural sisterly relationship despite the challenging circumstances.
While the entire cast is memorable and entertaining, two performers stand out. Jeremy Keith Hunter’s portrayal of Devaun crackles with comedic energy and skillful clowning that would outshine most professional stand-up comedians. Shravan Amin gives a sensitive, poignant, and natural performance as the transitioning Ishan/Indira.
When January Feels Like Summer
closes June 12, 2016
Details and tickets
When January Feels Like Summer, which won Cori Thomas the American Theatre Critics Association’s 2011 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for emerging playwright, was well-received in a 2014 off-Broadway production. Critics there found it a jewel of a play, with a few minor flaws, moments of slow pacing and uneven comedic tone. None of that is present here under Serge Seiden’s (Bad Jews, Studio Theatre) skillful direction.
When January Feels Like Summer is an inspired choice to conclude Mosaic’s first season. As Founding Artistic Director Ari Roth stated in pre-show opening night remarks, it offers something new for Mosaic – laughter. Humor can be an effective way of addressing serious issues. This multicultural production perfectly meshes with Mosaic’s mission of “making powerful, transformational, socially-relevant art, producing plays by authors on the front lines of conflict zones.”
When January Feels Like Summer is a funny, touching, thought-provoking work. It establishes Cori Thomas as a playwright to watch and confirms Mosaic as one of our area’s most interesting and accomplished companies.
When January Feels Like Summer by Cori Thomas. Directed by Serge Seiden. Featuring Jeremy Keith Hunter, Vaughn Ryan Midder, Lynette Rathnam, Shravan Amin, and Jason B. McIntosh. Set Design: Debra Booth . Lighting Design: Max Doolittle. Costume Design: Robert Croghan. Sound Design: David Lamont Wilson. Properties: Michelle Elwyn. Technical Director: William M. Woodward. Production Stage Manager: Allie Roy. Presented by Mosaic Theater Company of DC. Reviewed by Steven McKnight.