Back to All Events

When January Feels Like Summer

Ensemble Studio Theatre and Page 73 Productions
In Association with The Radio Drama Network present


Directed by Daniella Topol*

May 28th - June 22nd

Wednesday-Saturday and Monday at 7pm
Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 5pm

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.

Cast & Creative

Featuring Dion Graham*, Mahira Kakkar, J. Mallory McCree, Debargo Sanyal*, Maurice Williams

Set Design: Jason Simms
Lights: Austin R. Smith
Costumes: Sydney Maresca
Original Music and Sound: Shane Rettig*



The New York Times Critics' Pick

The New York Times

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

Click Here for Full Review

An engaging, buoyantly acted romantic comedy by Cori Thomas at Ensemble Studio Theater.

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

Sydney Maresca’s stylish costumes, and the funky, smartly designed set by Jason Simms, contribute to the play’s lively appeal.

Ms. Thomas’s characters are written with such heart and good humor that we are happy to buy into the more fairy-tale-ish developments. And under the superbly judged direction of Daniella Topol, the actors embody them with both liveliness and sensitivity.

Ms. Kakkar brings a moving sense of strength and dignity to her portrayal of Nirmala

The moving monologue in which Indira falteringly decides to reveal, in an amusingly oblique way, the truth about the state of her gender to Devaun, is delivered by Mr. Sanyal with a soft-spoken emotional intensity that had me holding my breath.

“When January Feels Like Summer” carries you along on the tide of Ms. Thomas’s affection for her characters, which we come to share. The effect is like being given a window into the lives of people we all pass on the street every day, or bump into on the subway, as the characters here do. You might note their air of distraction, or be curious about the self-involved happiness they radiate, but decorum dictates you return your gaze to the iPhone or the blur through the train window. It’s rare to leave a play with such a strong desire to spend more time in the characters’ company.


New Yorker



Click Here for Full Review

The entire cast of this ultimately very funny and moving play, directed by Daniella Topol, is topnotch, but Sanyal is especially riveting as an overzealous convert to womanhood, desperate for admiration.


Times Square Chronicles

Run as Fast as You Can to See When January Feels Like Summer
By Suzanna Bowling

Click Here for Full Review

For at least three years, the work coming out of the Ensemble Studio Theatre has been fresh and poignant, with stories that stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

Ms. Thomas’s writing lets us know each of these individuals so deeply that we cry for them, laugh with them and want the best for them. Daniella Topol’s direction is smart as she allows this talented team of actors to stay real; not once do you not believe what they are saying or doing.

When Indira reveals the truth to Devaun, the emotional longing will choke you in its intensity. Mr. Graham is given moments when he reveals his past and as he says “Garbage is garbage” and in his capable hands we understand how to let go. Mr. McCree and Mr. Williams have such a great rapport that we laugh with their antics and sit on the edge of our seats for their next moments.

For a small space with a limited budget, Sydney Maresca’s costumes, and the terrifically designed set by Jason Simms keep us in the moment.

Ms. Thomas’s words cut to the bone as she shows us global warming, child/human abuse, lack of communication, lack of confidence and so much more. This is a play where you do not want to leave the theatre but explore more of the world which Ms. Thomas has opened. I pray that a smart producer moves this because it belongs on Broadway!


nytheater now

Indie Artists on New Plays #104
Espii looks at When January Feels Like Summer at Ensemble Studio Theatre

Click Here for Full Review

Each element of the production design works together to create a realistic feel of New York City. Jason Simms’ set design is attentive to detail, from the personalized graffiti on the wall to the 10 cents sticker on the candy bowl. Austin. R Smith’s lighting design and Shane Rettig’s sound design go hand in hand creating quick transitions like the inconsistency in the weather. A highlight for Sydney Maresca’s costume design was Indira’s rumpled red dress for her date night.

Director Daniella Topol does a wonderful job exploring the ebb and flow of each character. She has created a balance that grows more dangerous by the minute, but remains intact.

Maurice Williams and J. Mallory McCree complement each other as Devaun and Jeron. Also shining is Debargo Sanyal’s portrayal of Ishan/Indira.


Lighting and Sound America

Theatre in Review: When January Feels Like Summer (Ensemble Studio Theatre/Page 73)
By David Barbour

Click Here for Full Review

Topol's direction is helpful in unearthing the real feelings sometimes hidden under the shtick, and her cast does remarkably well with material that shuttles between reality and bare-faced gagging. She pulls off some lovely moments, especially when Indira and Devaun enter from their Burger King date, festooned with paper crowns.

Mahira Kakkar makes Nirmala's dilemma -- she feels loyal to a man she has never remotely loved -- seem thoroughly real. Debargo Sanyalbelievably enacts Ishan/Indira's big change; he also does wonders with Indira's big speech, explaining her situation in terms of the Hindu religion. As Joe, Dion Graham radiates a quiet decency that only barely hides his desire for Nirmala. As Devaun and Jeron, Maurice Williamsand J. Mallory McCree are certainly enthusiastic even as they channel material that sounds like it comes from a "hip" mid-'70s sitcom likeGood Times or What's Happening. However, Williams plays beautifully with Sanyal and McCree does well with a pair of phone monologues.

Jason Simms' set, an arched brick streetscape that can be quickly dressed and redressed, neatly solves the problem of doing a play set in a great many locations; he even supplies a thoroughly convincing piece of a subway car. Austin R. Smith's lighting reshapes the space as necessary, neatly and without fuss. Sydney Maresca's costumes include some stunning Indian outfits for Nirmala and clothing that does much to assist Indira's newly feminine appearance. Shane Rettig's sound design helpfully provides a battery of urban effects -- traffic, subway rumbles, and a local television newscast among them.

Thomas' writing is sufficiently striking that it's easy to see why two fine theatre companies wanted to get behind this production.


A CurtainUp Review

When January Feels Like Summer
By Gregory A. Wilson

Click Here for Full Review

All five characters are ultimately engaging and sympathetic, a testament not just to Thomas's creation but to high quality acting from the ensemble and excellent, lively direction from Daniella Topol.

This is a well-done and uplifting production by Ensemble Studio Theatre and Page 73. If you've ever smiled at something you've seen on a New York City street when passing by, When January Feels Like Summer is your kind of play.


TDF Stages

What If You Listened to the People You’re Afraid Of?
by Kenneth Jones

Click Here for Full Review

On EST’s vest-pocket stage, the physical world of director Daniella Topol’s production is an urban patchwork (by designer Jason Simms): part bodega, part subway car, part transit platform, part apartment, part hospital room, and part street corner.

One of the most nontraditional and sensitive love scenes you may ever see on stage.



When January Feels Like Summer

Ensemble Studio Theatre and Page 73 join together to present the New York premiere of Cori Thomas' latest comedic drama.

By Hayley Levitt

Click Here for Full Review

Thomas delicately peels back the layers of these human shells, drawing them into sharper focus while each searches for a renewed state of equilibrium.  

Director Daniella Topol silently keeps the characters and their unfolding circumstances grounded in a sincerity that seems as unassuming as the dingy subway doors and stocked bodega shelves that comprise Jason Simms' set. Yet, while emitting the unremarkable aura of everyday urban life, Thomas and Topol manage to look under the hood of these unassuming circumstances to reveal a nuance that is absent from the casual newsreel about a pair of local citizen heroes or the struggle with transgender identity.

Thomas is blessed with a talented cast of actors who add the necessary contours to her collection of characters who yearn to be seen by a world intent on keeping them invisible. Kakkar, who opens the play as a stern shopkeeper, drudging through life's responsibilities, chips away at Nirmala's hard exterior with a series of monologues by her husband's hospital bedside. The final pieces of armor fall to the ground in a climactic moment of catharsis, visibly lighting a long-dormant fire behind her eyes. Graham offers a sweet, subdued performance as her romantic counterpart Joe, who, while carrying his own demons, helps bring about Nirmala's spiritual rebirth.

Sanyal, however — who originated this role at Pittsburgh's City Theatre — stands out among the cast of five, delivering a heartbreaking performance as he gradually transforms from Ishan to Indira.

Sanyal succeeds in making an equally strong argument on behalf of Ensemble Studio Theatre and Page 73's future collaborations.


Entertainment Hour

A Theater Review Blog
When January Feels Like Summer @ The Ensemble Studio Theatre
By Paul Morin

Click Here for Full Review

The partnership of The Ensemble Studio Theater and Page 73 Productions starts this reviewer’s theater season off on just the right foot.

When January Feels Like Summer is a wonderfully smart bit of writing by Cori Thomas. Her characters are a perfect blend of ridiculous and believable, causing delight and heartache in the same breath.  It is no surprise with material such as this that the cast excels as well.  

Maurice Williams (Devaun) and J Mallory McCree (Jeron) are hilarious together. Their innocent ignorance allows them to deliver what could otherwise be offensive dialogue as comedy gold.  Dion Graham (Joe) plays a wonderfully mild mannered everyman, who quietly lends compassion and relateability to the audience.  Mahira Kakkar (Nirmala) subtly builds emotional confusion in her character, culminating in a truly crazed release.  

Even among these brilliant performances, Debargo Sanyal (Ishan/Indira) rises skyward.  Sanyal’s portrayal was as moving as it was humorous, often at the same time.  His stylized character reactions leave you disarmed with laughter, lending greater strength to the vulnerability he has a moment later.  To not empathize with him is to be heartless.

In case there wasn’t enough delight in the cast and writing, the direction, set and lighting add even more to this ensemble work.  Jason Simm’s set is a wonderful use of the space; seamlessly transforming in seconds and giving the detail that even lifelong New Yorker’s will appreciate.  Add to that the flowing stage movement from director Daniella Topol, the simple precision of lighting by Austin R Smith and the great prop work by Andrew T Chandler and we are transported around the city with casual ease.

When January Feels Like Summer is a must see!  This stellar production will leave you awe struck.

Earlier Event: May 21
Bloodworks 2014
Later Event: June 8
Brunchily Ever After