Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College begins its theatrical season with a production of “Hot L Baltimore.”

It will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday on the stage of the Fine Arts Auditorium.

The play draws its title from the hotel's exterior neon sign, where the burned-out “E” was never replaced.

Written by Lanford Wilson, it is set in the lobby of the Hotel Baltimore and focuses on the residents of the decaying property who are faced with eviction when the structure is condemned.

The performance takes place in the lobby of the hotel.

College teacher David Froman, who is directing the play, saw the original, off-Broadway production of “Hot L Baltimore” while living and working in New York City in the early 1970s.

Froman wanted to direct “Hot L Baltimore” when he was administrator of the college's Fine Arts Department, but said “it just didn't happen.”

“I really, really liked it,” Froman said of the play. “I think I bring something special to the play as director having seen the play performed professionally.

“I remember how the characters were all on the edge with a certain kind of wackiness, a disjointedness about them.”

He described one of the characters, a prostitute, as “a hardworking hooker with a sense of elegance about her.”

The original cast included Judd Hirsch.

It won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play of 1972-73, the John Gassner Playwriting Award, an Obie Award and an Outer Critic's Circle Award.

The wit and comedy of “Hot L Baltimore” is brought across through its language.

“The performers have to study the lines to discover the nuances of the text,” Froman said.

He and Barbara George, the current administrator of the Fine Arts Department, spent a great deal of time editing the copy to a TV version.

“But we tried not to destroy its color,” Froman said.

He was impressed with the performers' ability to take their lines and find what's underneath.

“They're also very inventive with their ‘business,'” Froman said. “There's one scene where eight of them are going at it all at the same time. Their lines overlap and they don't wait for anyone to finish their lines. It's very intense, yet it's not a cacophony. You understand what they're talking about.”

The cast includes Miami students John David Duncan, freshman, as Bill Lewis; Jordan Francisco, freshman, as Girl; Clinton Beatty, sophomore, as Mr. Katz; Joshua Bales, sophomore, as cab driver, and Anthony Dunaway, freshman, as pizza delivery man.

Students from Webb City, Mo., include Melissa Mullen, sophomore, as Jackie; Kyle Van Meter, freshman, as Jamie, and Brett Robertson, freshman, as Suzy's John.

Additional performers include Taylor Barth, sophomore from Nowata, as Millie; Holly McFall, sophomore from Oklahoma City, as Mrs. Bellotti; Cameron Wright, sophomore from Yukon, as April Green; Chummy Henson, freshman from Okmulgee, as Mr. Morse; Siota Worford, sophomore from Skiatook, as Suzy; Adam Anderson, sophomore from Riverton, Kan., as Paul Granger III, and Nadia Draggs, sophomore of St. Louis, Mo., as Mrs. Oxenham.

“I feel that there's a fundamental message in this play,” Froman said. “One of the characters makes a speech about it. The speech is wrung out of her; it doesn't come over a great deal of reflection.

“It's that having and acting on one's convictions is the passion of life.”