Play: “The Sinker”

Group: HotCity Theatre

Venue: Kranzberg Arts Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters Building, 501 North Grand

Dates: May 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22

Tickets: From $15 to $25; contact 314-289-4063 or

Story: A bitter nor’easter is wreaking havoc on Boston the day after friends have thrown a big party for Josh. The first-time novelist is celebrating the impending publication of his work, “American Family,” which has been edited by Liz, a literary agent and ‘friend with privileges’ he first met in college 15 years earlier. The party was held at the home of Josh’s childhood friend, George, a shy young man who spends his days as a traffic reporter for a local AM station.

As he prepares to clean up the morning after the party, George is surprised by Candi, a young writing student of Josh’s who has spent the night. The uninhibited Candi’s flagrant flirtation with the introverted George disarms him. He talks about the gubernatorial candidacy his father, a powerful judge in Maine, will proclaim the following summer, as well as his love and devotion for his best friend Josh. Back in the day, Josh, George and George’s older brother Billy were “The Three Musketeers,” enjoying adventures on a lake where they spent their summers until tragedy struck and Billy drowned.

When Liz, who has been living in the apartment downstairs, arrives in search of aspirin and coffee, she demands to know why Candi is there. As Candi reveals more and more about her relationship with Josh as well as veiled and ominous references to Liz’s future with Josh, both personally and professionally, tensions escalate and quickly are exacerbated when a revolver is found in the kitchen.

Highlights: HotCity’s annual GreenHouse Series brings attention to the works of new playwrights, with the winner’s entry performed on HotCity’s main stage the following spring. The 2009 winner, “The Sinker” by Jami Brandli, was selected from more than 300 participants. With the collaboration of director Annamaria Pileggi and dramaturg Erica Nagel, Brandli’s crackling and provocative script has resulted in an absorbing, engaging and compelling drama in this world premiere production.

Other Info: Brandli’s script for “The Sinker” is serious and arresting drama, well written and mysterious in its presentation. Pileggi’s direction is tight and sharply focused, and her shrewd pacing helps escalate tensions between the characters. She also elicits splendid performances from the talented cast that carry conviction that resonates in their taut portrayals.

Aarya Sara Locker is outstanding as Liz. Her mannerisms and weary expressions superbly capture the distrust, vulnerability and anger of her character, a woman who has devoted her life to the artistic pursuits of the unseen, self-centered Josh. As George, Rusty Gunther shines in the Everyman role he does so well. He shows us George’s childlike need for love and acceptance as well as how easily he falls under the sway of the charming Candi. His loneliness is etched in his fierce explanations of the impact of a nor’easter on the lives of unsuspecting victims, the one area where he has some expertise.

Erica Feldman shrewdly encompasses the human nor’easter of Candi, a manipulative sociopath who is motivated solely by her thirst for fame and recognition at any price. She effectively fills Candi with the easy ability to push the buttons of George and Liz in disturbing fashion while mapping out the devastating impact of her words.

Sean Savoie’s set has the appropriate look of a morning-after party, filled with the debris of bygone dreams and accentuated with the cluttered props provided by Liz Spray across George’s modest kitchen. Bonnie Kruger’s costumes reflect George’s shy demeanor, Candi’s provocative nature (a long T-shirt with only a pair of fuzzy socks as accoutrement) and Liz’s closely held secrets beneath her tightly tied robe and another pair of Josh’s woolen socks. Joe Pini’s sound design provides the menacing impact of the storm, while Maureen Hanratty’s lighting illustrates the stark proceedings.

“The Sinker” offers another insightful illustration of the success of HotCity’s GreenHouse Series and is a compelling work in its own right.

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.