White Hot: Psychological Thrills & Chills
By Miguel Garcia
The tagline for Tommy Smith’s White Hot is “Come be emotionally invaded.” And that’s pretty much how I left after seeing this hellish 1-hour ride of a play. It was like watching a horror film performed on stage.
The show is a turbulent odyssey through the madness of two sisters, Lil (played by Karina Wolfe) and Sis (played by Michal Sinnott), who express their own individual trauma along the spectrum of delusion. Lil is married to an equally insane and religiously dogmatic husband Bri (played by Christopher Illing). When she finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy, Sis gives Lil the number of a doctor who helps people in these situations. As you can imagine, this play does not end happily for any of the characters.
White Hot included some of the most disturbing performance work I have seen in Los Angeles. This is truly a credit to the actors’ and production team’s commitment to digging deep into the dark territories within the writing. Sis’s insanity is comedic and filled with outrageous dialogue that inspires uncomfortable laughter. Lil’s madness is unnerving because she’s so far gone, her cracked mental state has become an everyday part of her life. At one point, she says, “Sorry, I tend to make up things that don’t happen. It causes problems,” with a smile on her face as though she just ordered a latte with an extra shot of espresso. Karina Wolfe skillfully captures the play’s tragic protagonist as a woman fallen victim to her sick environment (mental and physical), but not entirely helpless. Whether her choices bring her some level of solace is open to interpretation.
One of the most unsettling scenes occurs when Lil invites Grig, the doctor (ominously played by Arthur Keng) to her home, hoping he can help her make the right decision about her pregnancy. After introductions are done, the doctor begins to beat Lil while at the same time telling her that she is fine, employing mind control techniques in order to guide her to a better place. Wolfe and Keng’s performances are emotionally captivating, such that you can’t help but to keep watching in horror and disbelief.
White Hot is definitely worth seeing at the Hollywood Fringe, but prepare to experience haunting chills on your trip home.
* * *
Written by Tommy Smith
Directed by Caitlin Hart
Performances: June 7, 2013 – June 28, 2013
Theatre Asylum Lab
1078 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tickets and additional information: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1230