When January Feels Like Summer

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Photograph: Gerry Goodstein
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Photograph: Gerry Goodstein
When January Feels Like Summer

When January Feels Like Summer. Ensemble Studio Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Cori Thomas. Directed by Daniella Topol. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.

When January Feels Like Summer: In brief

Cori Thomas's play tracks the unexpected interactions of five Harlemites during an unseasonably warm winter. Daniella Topol directs a multicultural cast in the local premiere.

When January Feels Like Summer: Theater review by Raven Snook

Changeable weather in the age of global warming serves as a metaphor for the unpredictable nature of life and love in Cori Thomas’s dramedy. Coproduced by Ensemble Studio Theatre and Page 73 Productions, When January Feels Like Summer is a grown-up NYC-set fairy tale laden with symbolism that rarely goes where you expect—which keeps it engaging, if not satisfying.

Indian immigrant siblings Nirmala (Mahira Kakkar) and Indira (Debargo Sanyal, a standout as a transgender woman in transition) are trapped: Nirmala by a husband in a protracted coma, Indira by an unwanted male body. Through serendipity, both embark on tentative romances with, respectively, a kindly garbage collector (Dion Graham) and an English-language-mangling ladies’ man (Maurice Williams).

Though Thomas clearly has much affection for her characters, they too often veer into stereotypes. Classism and prejudice are also played for uneasy laughs, a strange choice for a show whose moral is that it takes all kinds to make our city’s melting pot simmer.—Theater review by Raven Snook

THE BOTTOM LINE The weather’s not so sunny in this romantic drama.

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