by Macey Levin
Two lonely people adrift in private worlds filled with conflict and confusion proceed to build an improbable friendship. Their story unfolds in David Auburn’s sweet and affecting play Lost Lake, beautifully directed by Daisy Walker at Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, MA.
Veronica (Lynnette R. Freeman) a Manhattan nurse practitioner, rents a ramshackle cottage on an upstate New York lake for a week’s summer vacation for her two young children from Hogan (Quentin Mare) a self-proclaimed handyman who isn’t very handy. She is strong and direct while he prevaricates and offers promises that will not be fulfilled.
Visiting in the spring to look over the cottage, she discovers it needs cleaning, has to have the water burner fixed, the land-line telephone turned on, an extra bed, the dock in the lake must be repaired and a loose shutter has to be secured. Having been his home for the last year, Hogan promises his clothes and personal possessions will be gone when Veronica and the kids arrive. After some haggling about financial details, she gives him a deposit based on his guarantees. When she arrives in mid-August nothing has been done.
Veronica, a young black woman, has been widowed for two years and has found the strength and ingenuity to support her family. However, a misstep has created an intense crisis for her. Despite her problems she lives up to the promises she made to her children. Hogan is a boy in a man’s body still holding onto some of the sweetness and charm of youth. But his life is an extended series of mistakes and self-inflicted problems. Divorced, his daughter changes her email address without informing him; he battles with his sister-in-law and is at odds with his younger brother. Responsibility and he are strangers as he admits to having been fired from 20 or 30 jobs. We watch the two attempt to solve their private problems as they learn to trust each other.
It is not unreasonable to expect this to turn into an inter-racial love story. But, fortunately, Auburn doesn’t take that turn. He focuses on Veronica and Hogan as individuals who slowly reach out to one another. The dialogue is realistic and director Walker has created a tone and pace so that the audience feels it is eavesdropping on the lives of two people in pain. Both the intimate conversations and the pitch of Veronica’s and Hogan’s disagreements and arguments ring with honesty. Walker’s direction is controlled; her actors avoid high-strung, artificial emotions and sentimentality.
Freeman and Mare give life to these two people. Their physical and facial reactions lend depth to their respective personalities and Auburn’s dialogue. Though the play has serious and disconcerting elements weaving through it, it also has its share of laugh lines which the actors simply touch rather than belt. They work beautifully together and are continually in sync using their acting intuition and the craft of their art.
Randall Parson’s set of the dilapidated rustic cottage with its extended wooden roof beams and sun porch has signs of its past comfort. Little touches indicate that the house was once loved. Patricia M. Nichols lighting allows for summer light to come in through the windows and Scott Killian utilizes summer sounds from crickets to the kids playing in the lake.
This play will touch your heart. It is a gem.
Lost Lake by David Auburn; Directed by Daisy Walker; Cast: Lynnette R. Freeman (Veronica) Quentin Mare (Hogan); Scene design: Randall Parsons; Costume design: Hunter Kaczorowski; Lighting design: Patricia M. Nichols; Sound design/Resident composer Scott Killian; Assistant sound designer: Christopher Peifer Stage Manager: Corey S. Cavanaugh; Running Time: ninety minutes; no intermission; Berkshire Theatre Group, Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge, MA; From 9/28/17; closing 10/22/17 https://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/