HOT & COLD Pushes Us Into The New

Gwydion Suilebhan’s new play took us places no other play has traveled to before on the Theater J stage — or any other stage, for that matter — A newly-constructed level-4 biohazard laboratory, pristine and precise, connecting to a typical, upper middle-class suburban kitchen, joining the lab via a shared “mud room” and “air lock.” Futuristic? You bet! What was the play about? A great many things. Let’s read the comments a find out some reactions!

8 thoughts on “HOT & COLD Pushes Us Into The New

  1. What just happened?

    That sentence summarizes my initial reaction to “Hot & Cold.” The play ended, and I had no idea what to think. Did one of the characters have a mental disorder? Did the mudroom connect two alternate universes? What heinous acts had Cynthia’s dad committed to become a “monster,” as Evelyn phrased it? Why did Dr. Kimmel marry Cynthia and Samuel if she’s not a religious figure? Moreover, what type of union was their marriage? One that I had never seen before, that’s for sure.

    The talk back was necessary to clear up some of the questions floating around in my brain. Although Gwydion Suilebhan tried to keep the play’s original meaning vague and up to the individual, he hinted that it had something to do with dissociative identity disorder, otherwise known as multiple personality disorder. He let us in on another secret: the lab served as a connection to the outside world and the home represented the interior section of something, though he didn’t tell us what.

    After hearing these clues, I formed a basic theory about the play (disclaimer: it’s probably still wrong). I think the set represented Dr. Kimmel’s mind, with the lab as her conscious mind, connecting her to the outside world and Dr. Brown, and Evelyn’s house as her subconscious mind. Dr. Brown is actually her psychiatrist. The other characters represent Kimmel’s split personalities; Cynthia’s dad represented the demons Kimmel lives with and Cynthia personifies Kimmel’s damaged side. I’m not quite sure what to make of Samuel and Evelyn; perhaps Samuel represents her rational side? I think Evelyn might be the connection to her conscious brain, bringing Kimmel’s different personalities together while at the same time soothing Kimmel and making the memories able to bear. Similarly, I’m not sure of religion’s role, though it was woven throughout the play so it must have some significance. I think the marriage performed by Dr. Kimmel represented part of her therapy that brought different personalities together and helped turn them into one person (Dr. Kimmel).

    Even if I’m wrong, the main thing I took away from “Hot & Cold” was that it made me think. The mental challenge proved a nice change from other works, where the playwright tells you what to think and guides your emotions. “Hot & Cold” definitely left me eager to see a sequel, something that would clarify the play’s meaning.

    • Jenna, I definitely agree with you about the talk-back clearing up a lot of my confusion. I think that specifically mentioning that the play is supposed to depict a disorder helped me to consider the lab and the home as layers of the subconscious and conscious. I thought it was particularly interesting that Gwydion Suilebhan mentioned that he doesn’t think it matters that the audience takes away the same thing, so I think that your interpretation of the play is interesting in and of itself in that regard. I don’t think I’m a huge fan of sequels but it will definitely be very exciting to see this play when it has been staged!

  2. The play “Hot&Cold” was very thought-provoking and challenging. I left the theater with a feeling of confusion at what just happened and a number of questions that were left unanswered. During the discussion, the playwright mentioned that there are 2 types of confusion, good and bad. I believe the play creates good confusion and leaves audience wondering at what happened and trying to find answers for themselves.

    At first, I thought the play was about atheism (Himmel and her reliance on reasoning and logic) versus religious faith (Jewish vs. Catholic family in the play). When Himmel first met with Evelyn, I started thinking that they play was some sort of fantasy. Two characters living in two overlapping settings? Both characters seemed real to me, so I thought it must have been fantasy at that moment. The part that I liked the most was the scene where Himmel introduces Brown to the family. I thought that at that moment everything started to make sense: Himmel was in a mental hospital and she was probably suffering from multiple personality disorder. Brown seemed to act like her psychiatrist/therapist explaining how each “soul” wants to be in charge of the body. Whose body? I thought that the whole thing was happening in Himmel’s head and that all these souls were part of her personality. Later on, I felt confused again because it seemed that Himmel was also one of the souls. Who was the person embodying all these souls? Did the lab and Himmel’s character represent conscious mind, and the kitchen/family – unconscious? What happened in the dark place? Why did Cynthia have so many memories?

    The play does not provide a clear answer to what happened, and that is what I loved most about it. Every person gets a chance to discover something for him or herself. The play allows you to be creative in finding answers instead of providing a clear-cut answer.

    Another thing that I liked about the play was Daniel’s portrayal. During the after-play discussion, one of the people in the audience mentioned that Daniel’s character was one-dimensional. I do not necessarily agree with that. In the beginning Daniel seemed like a normal father. I started suspecting the “evil nature” of the person who he resembles when one of the conversations with his daughter, Cynthia, seemed to reveal the true nature of their relationship. I thought that part was written very well and provided subtle cues about him.

    I am still confused about the ending (and probably the play itself). I thought that Samuel and Cynthia’s wedding would put everything in its place, but I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t happen. When the play ended, my first question was “What just happened?” Even though some parts of the play might benefit from more clarity, the play definitely makes you think and challenges you in a new way!

  3. I can definitely see Hot and Cold becoming a full-fledged production. The reading of the play was very engaging and there was an energy that came about from a very wonderful connection between the actors and the script. I think that my greatest difficulty lay in understanding the play and the narrative. I was very glad to have stayed behind for the talk back, because my initial comment as the play concluded was, “I’m confused.” I had no idea what to make of the play or how to explain it. As Gwydion Suilebhan explained the premise of the play, I was suddenly able to connect the threads of the play that were presented to me. I was able to draw a clearer map of the play and that explanation allowed me to take away more from it. I think that it would be very helpful for audience goers, if it were mentioned at the beginning of the play that it is a depiction of a mental illness. Perhaps elucidating at least this premise will allow the audience to more fully enjoy the rich and thorough puzzle that is presented to us through the course of this theatre experience.

    Perhaps my favorite part of the play was the characters. I enjoyed their banter and their ability to immediately become more familiar and more alluring, as the conditions of the play became more surprising and unpredictable. I think that Himmel’s character appealed to me most because of her unexpected relationship with Cynthia. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to cast the two female characters to have similar hair color, but it was a decision that allowed me to read further into the possibility of their being the same person or at least versions of the same individual and added great depth to my understanding of the play. I think that the play in the form previewed Monday night was very engaging and shows great promise for what will surely be an even more entertaining play; with a set, costumes and staging, the visual aspects of the play will add to the overall experience.

  4. After viewing the reading of “Hot & Cold”, I was left disordered, bewildered, perplexed and any other adjective used to describe utter and complete confusion. Throughout the entirety of the play my mind raced, trying to tie together the remnants of a plot or at least some sort of overarching theme. I had my theories throughout, none of which proved to be satisfying as they were unfounded. I will share my most extravagant theory; maybe some others had similar thoughts.

    I thought the work of Drs. Brown and Kimmel centered on finding evidence of a disease that had led to the deaths of the Evelyn, Samuel, Cynthia, and her father, Daniel. In other words, I originally suspected that all of initial scenes featuring Evelyn and Samuel were merely flashbacks of what had taken place during that “fateful” Christmas gathering. Furthermore, I figured that Dr. Kimmel had had a lab constructed that was adjoined to the very kitchen where the outbreak of the dieses had originated. I felt us as the audience was previewed to the fateful errors that caused the spread of the disease, errors that both of the doctors longed to know. The errors that I thought were foreshadowing the deaths were of course Samuel’s usage of one of the towels to pick up raw turkey entrails and then subsequently, Evelyn’s use of that same towel to stop the bleeding of an open wound. Upon seeing this development, my mind jumped to the conclusion that Evelyn would unknowingly spread the germs to the food and all those who ate the Christmas dinner would contract the infection and perish, thereby leading Drs. Brown and Kimmel to crack the mystery, with the scientific method as their guiding light. When these ideas were popping into my head, I remember wondering” Am I thinking too much into this”? Well, as it turns out I was not thinking nearly enough.

  5. Confusion. If I had to choose one word to describe my initial reaction to “Hot & Cold” confusion would be it. At first, I was attributing this to my naive relationship with theater. The talkback, however, made it clear that I was not the only slightly confused. The idea of the scenes overlapping was difficult to grasp completely. I am assuming that much of the confusion may be able to be sorted out with scenery and it would, hopefully, be clearer which room the characters were in.
    The idea that all the characters were one person that had different souls was not something that I caught onto right away. It very well may have been that I was not able to fully understand it as “good confusion” or was simply unable process it while the remainder of the play was unraveling. I was also confused as to why order was not restored after the marriage of Cynthia to Samuel. I did feel as if I had lost some of the plot because of the overwhelming amount of “bad confusion”.
    During the talkback Gwydion Suilebhan made it clear that there wasn’t a correct way to answer the play. To be honest, this threw me off a bit. I am the type of theatergoer or even moviegoer that prefers to have most if not all the answers for them in the play. Because of this I, not surprisingly, found the film Inception rather confusing because of all its layers. When Gwydion related “Hot & Cold” to inception and spoke of the same sorts of layers I then understood that maybe this was not my type of play, just as Inception was not my type of film/
    Himmel was not only my favorite character but also my favorite part of this play. She was witty, and although apparently unintended humorous. Especially when she was cooking in the kitchen with Samuel – I found myself laughing at all the turkey jokes. I would definitely enjoy seeing a greater amount of this side of Himmel come out during the play.

  6. During the talk back following HOT AND COLD, the writer, Gwydion Suilebhan asked the audience if the play hit the right balance of confusion. Suilebhan explained that confusion can help keep the play engaging by making the audience think and guess or it can alienate the audience by making them feel too far removed. To me, I feel that question targets the strengths and weaknesses of the play perfectly. Throughout the play, the audience witnesses two separate plots slowly overlap and converge. Characters walk past each other unknowingly, and then all of a sudden see each other. This chaos and confusion kept me engaged. I thought of it like a psychological thriller with unreliable narrators. I could not tell who was crazy and what was real, but I could tell something was up.

    The actors did a superb job filling their roles. In particular, Evelyn stood out as a mom who cared deeply, but appeared to be slipping, mentally. I spent much of the time assuming that she was developing dementia, which added to the unreliable narrators confusion. Daniel was intimidating and, a bit creepy, with his subtle incestuous references. However, I only caught one reference to this personality quality, though a fellow audience member alluded to more. I think that it should have been played up or played down. As it stands, it felt like an undeveloped quality that somewhat demands to be developed if it is to be included.

    At the end of the play, I was expecting a conclusion that wrapped up the play and tied together the loose ends, clearing up the confusion Suilebhan built throughout the plot. However, I did not get that. The ending slipped into the less good stage of confusion. I understand not spelling things out for the audience and leaving them thinking, but I did not feel that the conclusion wrapped it up in a way so that the audience would understand what exactly they should be left pondering afterwards. Until the talk back, I did not realize that the play was about a therapist and his patient suffering from dissociative disorder. Looking back on it, it makes sense, but I think that Suilebhan should consider clarifying that point.

    Overall, I think Suilebhan has a good premise to work with and has a unique plot with loads of potential. The confusion throughout the play established to demonstrate mental illness is a great tactic. The subplots and various “souls” are interesting and entertaining. I think with clarification at the end to really tie it all together, the play would solid: entertaining and thought provoking.

  7. I think it is important for a playright, when exploring themes of different and potentially conflicting religious beliefs, to have his or her thoughts and intentions fully developed. What i mean is that religion is a sensitive topic, and by drawing too much negative attention to one side or the other you risk creating something that does not positively contribute to the conversation on these issues. That is how i feel about “Hot and Cold”; the playwright knew the ideas she wanted to explore but hadn’t developed them enough to do it successfully. In part i attribute this to the fact that “Hot and Cold” is a work in progress, and i’m hopeful that Gwydion Suilebhan will take the feedback she has gotten and use it to craft a more nuanced production.

    On the content of the play itself, i never really arrived at the conclusion that the play was about a person with mental illness until the playwright introduced the idea. I think the religious theme led me astray from a more scientific theory towards a more mystical theory. I speculated that the scientists had succumbed to the micro bacteria in their sleep and were experiencing some kind of purgatory before passing on into the afterlife. This theory was confirmed in my mind when the characters visited the “dark place” which i took to be hell.

    Like many others who have written on the play before me, i too was left very confused after the end of the reading. The talkback did somewhat clear up my idea of what Gwydion Suilebhan was going for, but i still was left with a sense that what i was grasping to understand was still not even fully formed in the mind of its creator. I am naturally suspicious of artists who claim their work is “open to interpretation” because i believe all art has a message and a point that is imbedded within it. Although the feelings evoked within us in response to art may be different at times, this supposes that their are some feelings to be had. The type of confusion that we all felt after “Hot and Cold” seemed the be the same, and i would say it was “bad” confusion, as the playwright termed it.

    All that being said, one thing i did really like about “Hot and Cold” was the acting. Each character was very convincing and good enough to at least partially sell me on an idea that is very difficult to grasp due to its confusing nature.

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