‘When January Feels Like Summer’ Debuts at Lehman

By Leonel Henriquez

Devaun (Mark Robinson) and Indira (Erica Peña) discuss dating.  Photo by Leonel Henriquez.

From Oct. 18-21, Lehman’s Studio Theatre showcased “When January Feels Like Summer” by award winning playwright Cori Thomas from Marymount Manhattan college. The play follows five characters as they evolve from the redundancy of their lives in Harlem, New York. The warm, funky January weather is a precursor to the changing elements of the characters as they externalize their turmoil and desires. Susan Watson-Turner brilliantly directed and masterfully staged the production.

The moment the lights go up the witty rapid-fire banter between two fast food workers is as electric as the third rail. The two Burger King employees, Devaun (Mark Robinson) and Jeron (Jahdiel Rodriguez), seek a greater purpose to their fast food lives. They set out on a crusade to rid the neighborhood of a sexual predator and prevent him from “homosexing” little kids. 

Joe (Eloy Rosario) is an awkward, reserved, and sincere sanitation worker who finds value in what others consider garbage. Joe has a crush on Nirmala, the sister of Ishan/Indira and the wife of an abusive bodega owner. Sara Rosado gives a phenomenal performance as Nirmala, who deals with a comatose husband. The somber hospital scenes are gut-wrenching as she addresses the monosyllabic response of a life support machine. At one point it feels like the audience wants to pull the plug to free her from her marital prison. Finally, Joe and Nirmala come together as they realize their mutual yearning for companionship.

Meanwhile center stage, shrouded in darkness, Ishan (Erica Peña) transforms to Indira. Peña’s performance is dynamic in the dual role. “I just want to look on the outside how I feel on the inside,” says Ishan of his desire to transition to a woman. Rounding out the cast, theatre major and senior Shawn Lackerson plays the newscaster. 

“People can only truly find themselves when they are themselves.” 

– playwright Cori Thomas

Playwright Cori Thomas wrote the play in 2007 after overhearing a conversation between two young men on the train. The language of the characters, how they speak and represent themselves, is at the heart of the play, she said. “People can only truly find themselves when they are themselves,” she told the Lehman audience.   

“I thought it was great. I loved it,” said senior and environmental science major Jeffrey Townsend. This play is a must-see that will both have the audience laughing and have them leave wanting just a little more of this fantastic production.