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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
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

Review: The Royal Society of Antarctica

The Royal Society of Antarctica is a very unique story that comes equipped with a powerful cast and a rich blend of humor, drama and intrigue that constantly move the play forward without the interest lulls you would think would be found in a three act show with a two hour and fifty-five minute run time. Playwright Mat Smart’s world premiere takes place at the intimate Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park where its forty-something cramped seats (unless you are sitting in the first row) actually adds to the overall intimate experience. The set, though simple, creates a potent illusion of a base site interior used as cover for its workers at the bottom of the world where temperatures are always below freezing and winds can pick up to 100-plus degrees in the right circumstances. We feel cozy and warm in our seats and protected from the cold as the characters feel the same when they enter set from the outside dangerous wintry conditions.  

In The Royal Society of the Antarctica, twenty-something Dee returns to her birthplace at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to seek answers to her mother’s suspicious disappearance that took place when she was a child. Surrounding Dee’s investigation, many characters are also focused upon with their own back stories. The team is comprised of janitors, utility technicians, scientists and food workers.  Workers are at the station for several month engagements at a time.  As one worker puts it – the first year you are there for the adventure, the second, you are there to see their friends again, the third, it’s probably for the money and if you come back for a fourth year it’s because you no longer fit in with normal society. We see the latter in the social awkwardness displayed by some of the characters. We also find some are there to run from their past.

Considered something of an untouchable holy ground due to its purity and the global agreement not to tarnish its earth by chemicals or otherwise, there is a certain magic present that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Strict rules are in place to safeguard the sanctity of the land. The sun and snow are so bright it can create a blinding effect and if a blizzard occurs, one could get permanently lost just walking twenty feet due to its zero visibility. Temperatures are so low limited skin exposure is dangerous. A hole in the ozone sits directly above them making it unsafe to remove their sunglasses for even just a minute. Daytime lasts for months followed by endless night time.  

There is a collection of strong acting performances that help in bringing this story to life headed by Paul D’Addario as “UT Tom” and Aila Peck as “Dee”. Jay Worthington is a blast to watch as “UT Tim”, the animated utility tech and team lead, while John Kelly Connolly is flawless as “Ace”, a man who has visited each continent, had sex on each continent and strives to be the first to have sex on each continent with someone native to that continent. Kyle Zornes also gets a lot of laughs with his deadpan delivery as “Jake”, the love-stricken science researcher who just can’t seem to get it right.

As Smart puts it, “I went to the bottom of the world to find this play—working as a janitor for three months at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. It’s perfect that it will premiere in my hometown at The Gift.”

All in all, The Royal Society of Antarctica is an entertaining experience with a distinctiveness to be remembered, opening up a new world that for most would likely go undiscovered.

The Royal Society of Antarctica is playing at The Gift Theatre through April 26th. Visit www.thegifttheatre.org for show information or call 773-283-7071    

      

*Photo - Jay Worthington (left) as UT TIm and Aila Peck as Dee                 

                                                                     

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