When January Feels Like Summer OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Gerry Goodstein
  • NY TIMES

  • TM

  • NY POST

  • L&S AMERICA

  • THEATER PIZZAZZ

Opening Night:
May 28, 2014
Closing:
October 26, 2014

Theater: Ensemble Studio Theater / 549 West 52nd Street, New York, NY, 10022

Synopsis: 

Presided over by the Hindu god Ganesh, a pair of teenagers become unexpected heroes, an immigrant accountant struggles with visibility, and two stifled romantics begin to stumble toward each other during one strangely warm winter in Central Harlem. When January Feels Like Summer follows five colliding lives as a feeling of change hums in the air and the many flavors of desire saturate the streets and subways and bodegas of the city. These characters learn to do more than meet their obstacles head-on -- they discover how to transcend them.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF When January Feels Like Summer

    Disparate Lives That Intersect
    ‘When January Feels Like Summer,’ at Ensemble Studio Theater

    Charles Isherwood

    June 9, 2014: The emotional weather is as volatile as the changeable skies in When January Feels Like Summer, an engaging, buoyantly acted romantic comedy by Cori Thomas at Ensemble Studio Theater. In Ms. Thomas’s sweet-tempered play, the lives of a handful of problem-plagued New Yorkers intersect in surprising but satisfying ways, leading to unexpected alliances. Among the play’s charms is its diverse cast of characters, who are the kind of folks not seen much of on mainstream local stages, although they make up a large part of the urban population. Devaun (Maurice Williams) and Jeron (J. Mallory McCree) are young African-American men, nattily dressed in snazzy sneakers and bright shirts, first seen on the subway talking about ring tones and girls as they head to work at separate Burger Kings. (Sydney Maresco’s stylish costumes, and the funky, smartly designed set by Jason Simms, contribute to the play’s lively appeal.) Jeron’s the brainy one, continually exasperated at his friend’s loose grasp of language. Devaun, a distant relative of Mrs. Malaprop, confuses words like “serial” and “serious,” but he isn’t fazed by any inability to communicate. Cocky and outgoing, he has a string of girls on tap, although his lack of smartphone skills makes you wonder how he keeps in touch.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF When January Feels Like Summer

    When January Feels Like Summer

    Hayley Levitt

    June 5, 2014: Erratic winds of change are in the air during an abnormally steamy New York winter in Cori Thomas' insightful and poignant new play, When January Feels Like Summer, a coproduction by Ensemble Studio Theatre and Page 73. Common desires bind a group of five unremarkable Harlem residents, who make their way inconspicuously through the streets and subways, unaware of the stories lying dormant beneath the skin of their invisible seatmates. As they weather the volatile episodes of rain, snow, and everything in between, Thomas delicately peels back the layers of these human shells, drawing them into sharper focus while each searches for a renewed state of equilibrium. Bringing in a buzzword from the modern zeitgeist, the irregular weather patterns are attributed to that pesky devil Global Warming. Maurice Williams and J. Mallory McCree make for an entertaining tag team as twenty-year-old Devaun and his pal Jeron, who discuss the concept in crude terms in their spare time between shifts at their respective Burger Kings. They paint stereotypical portraits of African-American urbanites while riding the subway to and from work, giddily engaging in foulmouthed banter in front of fellow passengers.

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  • NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF When January Feels Like Summer

    Cori Thomas’ sweet Harlem-set comedy slacks off but has winning touches

    Elisabeth Vincentelli

    June 6, 2014: Two epically awkward dates make a satisfying finale to the off-Broadway comedy When January Feels Like Summer — they’re a long time coming, though. Playwright Cori Thomas enjoys her characters so much, she can’t bear to shut them up. And so each scene in this Harlem-set story of love and desire ends up going on way too long after its point’s been made. Nowhere is this more obvious than with Devaun (Maurice Williams) and Jeron (J. Mallory McCree), two exuberant 20-year-old motormouths. They’re all up in arms because Devaun — excitable, sweet and not as slick as he thinks — is convinced a local guy made a pass at him. So the wannabe avengers decide to warn people against this potential predator by putting up posters all around the neighborhood, including at the bodega run by Nirmala (Mahira Kakkar) and her younger brother, Ishan (Debargo Sanyal).

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  • LIGHTING AND SOUND AMERICA REVIEW OF When January Feels Like Summer

    When January Feels Like Summer (Ensemble Studio Theatre/Page 73)

    David Barbour

    June 6, 2014: Another title for When January Feels Like Summer could be "When Theatre Feels Like a Television Sitcom." Playwright Cori Thomas' deft ability to get inside the heads of a wide range of characters is undercut by her determination to spin the most unlikely elements -- brain death, gay-baiting, transsexualism, global warming -- into a feel-good comedy. You could get whiplash watching the cast of Daniella Topol's production switch between little moments of truth and scenes of pure audience-baiting corn. Thomas hooks our attention by presenting two distinct sets of characters from Central Harlem who cross paths on the subway without meeting but who are soon to have a big impact on each other. Devaun and Jeron are homeboys, cousins, and fellow Burger King workers; we see them chatting about girls, the mysteries of overtime pay, and "the global," or the warming of the planet, which is caused, they think, by people refusing to recycle. Then Devaun drops a bombshell: Lorrance, a neighborhood character who dresses in red and purple suits and big sunglasses, apparently propositioned him in a neighborhood bodega.

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  • THEATER PIZZAZZ REVIEW OF When January Feels Like Summer

    Busted Thermometer: When January Feels Like Summer

    Eric J. Grimm

    June 8, 2014: Small talk that begins with, “Some weather we’re having,” doesn’t bode well for meaningful conversation. Such is the doomed nature of Cori Thomas’ When January Feels Like Summer, which uses an unseasonably warm winter in Harlem as a means of bringing together its stock characters and having them deal with homosexuality, transgender issues, race, euthanasia, and, of course, global warming. The intention is to be touching and funny but it’s consistently sloppy and offensive and hardly worth the effort that Ensemble Studio Theatre and Page 73 have put into the production. Thomas’ play is set in “Harlem,” though it’s unclear where we are in that sprawling area of New York City. Manhattanville? East Harlem? It should make a difference, but like her characters, Thomas’ sense of location is generalized. “Harlem” is just enough to get the characters hanging out on the subway and in the bodega, though credit is due to scenic designer Jason Simms for creating realistic interpretations of those settings.

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