Tuesday, 16 January 2018 03:42

Review: Five Mile Lake at Theater Wit

With the homecoming and family-visit season safely in the rear-view, Shattered Globe presents a new play by Rachel Bonds about the places we come from. “Five Mile Lake” is directed by Cody Estle, his first production with the company.

Bonds writes about a feeling that many city transplants can relate to all too well. “I can’t believe I managed to spend 18 years there,” she says of her small hometown in the stage notes. Though Bonds seems to have escaped small town life at a young age, her script is not a snobby look down her nose at small town America, in fact, it’s almost the opposite. There’s a longing for a perceived simplicity in this play. The irony is that no matter where you live, complexity is unavoidable.

‘Five Mile Lake’ is about five characters in a town outside Scranton, at the edge a frozen lake. The symbolism is not lost. Local coffee shop coworkers Mary (Daniela Colucci) and Jamie (Steve Peebles) live fairly uneventful lives until Jamie’s older brother returns with a new girlfriend and an open-ended visit.

In many ways, this is a retelling of Chekhov’s masterpiece ‘Uncle Vanya’. Mary and Jamie seem to toil endlessly in their dismal lives. Jamie works on a lake house his brother Rufus (Joseph Wiens) and girlfriend Peta (Aila Peck) are suddenly interested in when their impressive city-life turns to shambles. Mary is bogged down by a shell-shocked brother Danny (Drew Schad), all the while dreaming of a life outside Five Mile Lake. Between these desires for other circumstances are subtle, but wholly palpable, moments of truth.

Shattered Globe is an ensemble theater and most of their productions feature familiar faces. The result is a sense of intimacy between actors that translates to an audience. There’s a naturalistic cadence to Rachel Bonds’ dialogue too. Sometimes inside-jokes or silliness between characters seems contrived on stage. Whenever Daniela Colucci is in a scene, you feel like you’ve known her all your life. There’s something really authentic going on here. Estle gets great performances out of even the smallest, non-verbal moments of the play. A scene in which Rufus and Mary’s older brother Danny run into each other after years of estrangement is so fraught that just a searching look from Drew Schad is enough to break your heart.

“Five Mile Lake” is a prime example of why you should see new work. Sometimes it’s a gamble, but other times in the middle of an ordinary Sunday you find yourself completely invested in the problems fictional characters. You take them with you, because they are you.

Through February 24th at Shattered Globe Theatre. Theater Wit. 773-975-8150

Published in Theatre in Review

Shattered Globe Theatre is pleased to continue its 2017-18 Season with Rachel Bonds’ new drama FIVE MILE LAKE, directed by Cody Estle. This Chicago premiere asks the question, “In this rapidly transforming world, when is the right time to make a major change in your life? What holds you back?” FIVE MILE LAKE will play January 11 – February 24, 2018 at SGT’s resident home Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, November 15 at www.shatteredglobe.org, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. The press opening is Sunday, January 14, 2018 at 3 pm.
 
FIVE MILE LAKE will feature Shattered Globe ensemble members Steve Peebles*, Drew Schad*, Joseph Wiens* and SGT artistic associate Daniela Colucci+ with Aila Peck. 
 
In a style reminiscent of Chekhov, five spirited young adults approaching thirty try to navigate the emotional undercurrents of unrequited love, loss and possibility. The unexpected return of a sibling sets in motion an inadvertent winter reunion in their small Pennsylvania town – the kind of claustrophobic place that most kids grow up to leave. Looking toward the frozen lake and wrestling with their future, each character aspires to make a new choice – the “right” choice – and comes face-to-face with the choices they have already made.
 
Comments Director Cody Estle, “Five Mile Lake is a funny and moving portrait of small town people –both the people who stayed and the people who moved away. Sometimes everyone else’s life looks better from a distance but what really defines happiness? Coming from a small town myself and being around the age of these characters brings a special connection – it’s a story that I'm eager to tell. It’s filled with family, dreams and hope – I think it will engage, move and inspire audiences.”
 
Producing Artistic Director Sandy Shinner adds, “The writing in Five Mile Lake is a gift to actors as they explore the tension between what the characters say and what they feel. In this season of all Chicago premieres, Shattered Globe is excited to welcome playwright Rachel Bonds to our theater. She’ll be joining us during the creative process and we look forward to introducing her to Chicago’s theater community and our audiences.”
 
The production team for FIVE MILE LAKE includes Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki (costume design), JR Lederle (lighting design), Christopher Kriz+ (sound design), Vivian Knouse* (props design), Eva Breneman (dialect coach), A.J. Roy (asst. director), Judy Anderson* (exec. production manager), Colin David (production manager), Denise Savas (stage manager) and Ayanna Wimberley (asst. stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: FIVE MILE LAKE
Playwright: Rachel Bonds
Director: Cody Estle
Cast (in alphabetical order): Daniela Colucci+ (Mary), Aila Peck (Peta), Steve Peebles* (Jamie), Drew Schad* (Danny) and Joseph Wiens* (Rufus).
 
Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, January 11 at 8 pm, Friday, January 12 at 8 pm and Saturday, January 13 at 8 pm 
Press Performance: Sunday, January 14 at 3 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, January 18 – Saturday, February 24, 2018 
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there is an added matinee on Saturday, February 24 at 3 pm. 
Touch Tour/Audio Description Performance: Friday, February 2 – 6:30 pm touch tour, 8 pm performance with audio description. $20 tickets available with code “ACCESS.”
Global Perspectives: SGT will be hosting post-show discussions immediately following 3 pm performances on Sundays.
Tickets: Previews: $20 general admission, $10 students, $10 industry tickets with code “FRIEND”. Regular Run: $35 general admission. Discounts: $15 students, $28 seniors, $20 under 30. $15 industry tickets on Thursdays with code “INDUSTRY.” Tickets go on sale Wednesday, November 15 at www.theaterwit.org, in person at the Theater Wit Box Office or by calling (773) 975-8150. Group discounts are currently available by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (773) 770-0333. 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Shattered Globe Theatre is pleased to announce its 2017-18 Season, featuring three Chicago premiere productions! The season kicks off this fall with Pulitzer Prize nominee James Still’s fevered, emotional epic THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK, a theatrical rendering of Abraham Lincoln's struggle as a man of conscience to lead a divided country. Directed by SGT Ensemble Member Louis Contey*, the Chicago premiere will feature Lawrence Grimm as Abraham Lincoln and SGT Ensemble Member Linda Reiter* as Mary Todd Lincoln.
 
Shattered Globe’s season continues this winter with Rachel Bonds’ new play FIVE MILE LAKE directed by Cody Estle. In this Chicago premiere, five friends approaching their 30s try to seize the moment and take a step toward adulthood.
 
The season concludes next spring with the Chicago premiere of Will Snider’s HOW TO USE A KNIFE, directed by SGT Producing Artistic Director Sandy Shinner*. In this fast-paced, gritty drama, a once-renowned chef strikes up an unlikely friendship with a reticent immigrant dishwasher while trying to manage his unruly and hilarious kitchen staff. 
 
Comments Sandy Shinner, "Shattered Globe is excited to present three Chicago premieres with all three playwrights – Rachel Bonds, Will Snider and James Still – involved in the productions. This is a first for SGT! The central characters in their plays are all caught in a particularly critical moment in time – political, personal or professional: Abraham Lincoln still mourning his young son, a small town woman with larger dreams, and a chef climbing back from addiction are all ready to make a change. Their worlds are about to undergo seismic shifts. Will the past hold them back?"
 
The full 2017-18 Season will be presented at Shattered Globe’s resident home, Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK go on sale Saturday, August 1, 2017 at www.shatteredglobe.org, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. Discounted group sales for all three productions are currently available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (773) 770-0333.
 
Shattered Globe Theatre’s 2017-18 Season includes:

September 7 – October 21, 2017
THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK
By James Still
Directed SGT Ensemble Member Louis Contey*
Featuring feature SGT Ensemble Members Kelsey Melvin*, Linda Reiter*, Drew Schad*, Brad Woodard* and SGT Artistic Associate Darren Jones+, with Don Bender, Zach Bloomfield, Jennifer Cheung, Lawrence Grimm, Kate Harris, Tim Kough and Tim Newell. Additional casting to be announced.
Press opening: Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 3 pm
 
Presented for the first time in the “Land of Lincoln,” THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK is James Still’s personal interpretation on the months leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of The Emancipation Proclamation. This theatrical epic explores Lincoln’s humanity, conscience and leadership through the troubled times of 1862 – as dreams of his famous adversaries and unnamed soldiers walk through his waking life. Sprinkled with text pulled from Lincoln’s prolific letters and speeches, this play explores the heart of the man who led America in a war that we're still fighting today.
 
January 11 – February 24, 2018
FIVE MILE LAKE
By Rachel Bonds
Directed by Cody Estle
Press opening: Sunday, January 14 2018 at 3 pm
 
In a style reminiscent of Chekhov, five friends approaching thirty try to navigate the emotional undercurrents of unrequited love, loss and possibility. The unexpected return of a sibling sets in motion an inadvertent winter reunion in their small Pennsylvania town. This is the kind of claustrophobic town that kids grow up to leave, but not everyone feels the same way. These old high school friends each aspire to make the right choice, and come face-to-face with the choices they have already made.
 
April 26 – June 9, 2018
HOW TO USE A KNIFE
By Will Snider
Directed by SGT Producing Artistic Director Sandy Shinner*
Press opening: Sunday, April 29 at 3 pm

In the chaotic kitchen of a Wall Street restaurant, Chef George is trying to stay sober and keep the trash talking cross-cultural kitchen staff churning out orders on time. While managing two Guatemalan line cooks, a pot smoking white busboy and dealing with a jerk of a boss, George strikes up a surprising friendship with a reserved Ugandan dishwasher. Raw, fast paced and suspenseful, HOW TO USE A KNIFE boils over when personal and moral issues from their pasts are exposed. This high energy drama is fresh off a rolling world premiere shared by four theaters in the National New Play Network.  

* Denotes SGT Ensemble Member
+ Denotes SGT Artistic Associate

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Devastation permeates the set and plot of the Northlight Theatre’s Midwest premiere of By the Water – a powerful and moving production, written by Sharyn Rothstein and directed by Cody Estle, about a Staten Island, New York, family dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

 

Marty and Mary Murphy (Francis Guinan and Penny Slusher) fight to save in their storm-ravaged home and campaign to keep their neighborhood together even as their life-long neighbors and friends the Carters (Janet Ulrich Brooks and Patrick Clear) vow to leave and family secrets seep to the surface.

 

“In this play, natural disaster serves as a metaphor for the social and political change that forces generations to confront very real issues about their own lives – lives built on values that have become outmoded,” says Northlight Artistic Director BJ Jones. “Sharyn’s sharp sense of humor built on rich character development is sprinkled throughout, and the themes of justice and family values and loyalties emerge full-throated in her dialogue and her surprising plot.”

 

The Murphy’s are magnificently played by Guinan and Slusher, who give impressive performances imbuing the blue-collar couple with authenticity, humor and grit as they struggle to survive not only the brokenness of their community but the underlying betrayals within their family.

 

At the heart of this production is family and the idea that despite the mistakes and disloyalties as exemplified in the tattered relationship of brothers Sal Murphy (Jordan Brown) and Brian Murphy (Joel Reitsma), and the back-and-forth power struggle between Sal and his father Marty, that love and forgiveness can prevail and second chances are possible. Nowhere is this more evident than with Brian, who after a stint in jail, manages to find a second chance at love with Emily (played by Amanda Drinkall).

 

“[By the Water} is about confronting deep-seated personal problems in the face of a generational divide and finding a way to move forward,” Estle notes.

 

Rothstein developed the idea for the play after visiting Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy.

 

“Leaving behind a community, a lifetime of memories, seemed like an enormous leap of faith and an incredibly difficult decision, but the destruction was gut wrenching,” she says. “Yet, in front of one neat, clearly beloved house, a man who looked to be in his sixties was tending his lawn. With his whole neighborhood in ruins, with the majority of his neighbors already gone or figuring out how to leave, here was a man clearly standing firm. The image of him standing there amid so much loss was the genesis of my play.”

 

And that imagery is so indelibly visible in this production, which manages to peel back so many unexpected and complex layers while remaining thoroughly entertaining from its opening moments with the very effective sound effects to its poignant end. What makes this play so touching is not only the dynamic script and incredibly talented cast but the simple yet powerful stage design that evokes loss and pain as well a sense of home and place.

 

The creative team behind By the Water includes: Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), JR Lederie (lighting design), Rachel Laritz (costume design), Lindsay Jones (sound design) and Mara Filler (stage manager).

 

Highly recommended.

 

By the Water is playing at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois, until April 23. Tickets are available at online at northlight.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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