Sunday, May 22, 2022

Fringe Review: Lost Lake has a Strong Ensemble, but Sleepy Script

Lost Lake. Photo by Terrance Odette.
Lost Lake. Photo by Terrance Odette.

Who: Gritty City Theatre Company
What: Lost Lake
Where: The Cotton Factory (270 Sherman Avenue North)
When: July 18-19 at 5:30pm, July 20 at 5:00pm & 8:00pm, July 21 at 5:00pm (as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival)

No internet, spotty cell phone reception and a dilapidated cabin in the Catskill mountains may sound like a nightmare to some. For nurse Veronica Barnes in Gritty City Theatre Company’s Production of Lost Lake, who is promised by down-on-his-luck Terry Hogan that the worn-out cabin will be updated before she arrives, it seems like a dream come true.  However, when Veronica returns to the summer cabin for her vacation, she learns that none of the repairs have occurred, and over the next ninety minutes, the audience dives into a character study as to what has led Veronica and Hogan into their respective circumstances.

Playwright David Auburn is best known for his Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play, Proof, which was adapted for film in 2005 starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. However, Lost Lake, which was originally produced in 2014, has a script that falls flat. The characters are given a lot of information to communicate, but no depth or understanding of the motivations for their actions. At the end of the play, there are no answers; just ambiguity and irresolution, which is ultimately unsatisfying.

Director John-Riley O’Handley and actors Melissa Murray-Mutch (Veronica Barnes) and Jason Thompson (Terry Hogan) have a long and impressive list of credentials between them, including work in film, stage and television both in Canada and abroad, from Bollywood to Sesame Street. Their experience shows and attempts to compensate for the sleepy script; the play is well directed and utilizes every inch of their small stage space effectively. Director O’Handley succeeds in transforming a small corner of the Cotton Factory into a cabin, and cleverly manages to store a number of props behind walls, on shelves, and anywhere there is usable space.

Managing this space does pose some challenges which were clear at the performance I attended. A wall facing the stage is made entirely of windows, rendering some of the stage lighting ineffective at times. The lighting was fairly consistent and natural throughout the majority of the performance (perhaps in an effort to combat the natural lighting coming through the windows), although the show experienced some technical difficulties with lighting in the final scene.

Transitions between scenes also seemed difficult to manage at times. With only two characters, changing costumes or resetting elements of the stage between scenes led to a few awkward moments where the stage was devoid of characters or movement and the audience was waiting. This will likely tighten up as the show continues its run.

Lost Lake is the premiere presentation of the Gritty City Theatre Company, which bills itself as one of Hamilton’s newest artistic adventures. The company promises to explore race, class and all things gritty and theatrical. The company has strong actors and an impressive mandate- it will be exciting to see what they do in the future with a script that has more depth and momentum.

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