April 29, 2013
By Michael Roberts
There certainly seems to be a plethora of “Father” centric shows making their way around Chicago. Within the past two weeks, more than half of the productions that have opened involve the reconciliation process with a patriarch. But none are on the level of Rajiv Joseph’s gripping The Lake Effect which is receiving its World Premiere at Silk Road Rising Theatre Company (jointly commissioned by Crossroads Theatre). Under Timothy Douglas’ thoughtful and precise direction, this dramady weaves the story of a brother and sister trying to figure out the truth of their recently deceased father which comes together like a Rubik’s cube. Was he a good man, a racist or simply a man doing the best he can after a family tragedy that took each of them in a different life path?
The Lake Effect cements Mr. Joseph as one of our most formidable new playwrights. As in his Bengal Tiger at The Bagdad Zoo (which had a phenomenal mounting at Lookingglass), Mr. Joseph weaves a narrative like no other with an overall morality check on the entire human condition. What you see at the outset of a Rajiv Jospeph play will surely get twisted around to show why people do what they do. He did that brilliantly in Bengal Tiger and amps it up a bit with his latest production.
Cultural divides about in The Lake Effect were we find Indian Wall Street mover and shaker Vijay (Adam Poss) coming to his estranged ailing father’s Clevland restaurant where he meets a Bernard (Mark Smith) an African American customer who has developed his own paternal relationship with Vijay’s father. After the father passes away, Vijay’s sister, Priya (Minita Gandhi) enters the fold and with that, things begin to unravel. As the story moves forward we find how each of these individuals became broken in an emotional climax that will leave you in tears.
Mr. Douglas as brought together a sensational cast who work impeccably together as a unit. Adam Poss (who was terrifically sinister in Goodman’s Teddy Ferrara) get to show off a range of emotions here, including some great comic timing, with his portrayal as the initially confused Vijay. Ms. Gandhi’s Priya is the perfect foil for Mr. Poss as the two siblings who have terrific on stage chemistry in their rivalry, yet you always know they have a deep love for one another. The breakout of this production is the amazing Mark Smith who gives a moving and deeply truthful Jeff worthy performance as Bernard. Mr. Smith’s Act II monologue is utterly transfixing.
As we have come to expect from Silk Road Rising, the production values are flawless, including a realistic diner set by Dan Stratton which is masterfully lit by Sarah Hughey along with Rick Sims sound design which will make you believe you are in the middle of a lake effect wind storm.
The Lake Effect shows the power of family and the reconciliation process when growing up without the matriarch. More than that, and here is the brilliance of Mr. Joseph, the The Lake Effect ends up being about how we are all longing a mother’s affection and how coping with their death at an early age puts on a life path they never intended to have happen as a parent. Simply brilliant.