Chicago Theatre Review
Watching a Slice of Life
Five Mile Lake – Shattered Globe Theatre
The small lake town near Scranton, Pennsylvania is the kind of place where young people grow up in, ready to leave for bigger and better places and opportunities. In Rachel Bond’s quiet, contemplative drama, five young adults learn some personal lessons about themselves and each another. The 95-minute one-act unspools at a leisurely pace, somewhat reminiscent of Chekov’s more pensive plays in which family members and friends talk, ponder and re-evaluate their lives. Nothing shattering or earthshaking happens at Five Mile Lake but, by the final curtain, a few subtle changes have taken place in the lives of these Millennials.
Like the lives of its characters, there are no momentous moments in this concise, introspective work. There’s simply remembrance, recognition and some regret. Jamie (Steve Peebles) manages a modest, little coffee shop that sells muffins and donuts. Mary (Daniela Colucci), his assistant at the counter, is a perky, pretty young woman who feeds the town’s stray cats that congregate outside the diner. She’s also Jamie’s secret crush; however Mary has always carried a torch for Rufus (Joseph Wiens), Jamie’s older brother. When Rufus was given the opportunity, he bolted from this suffocating small town for all that New York City had to offer. He’s been struggling to complete his PHD for his dissertation. But Rufus has returned to his childhood home for a weekend of relaxation and reunion with his brother, who’s been steadily renovating the lake cottage. Rufus has brought with him his lovely, sophisticated British girlfriend, Peta (Aila Peck). The couple appear to be working through something unspoken and their relationship seems cool, at best. Add to the mix Danny (Drew Schad), Mary’s brother who has returned home from Afghanistan and is suffering from PTSD. He hasn’t been able to find a job, which has made Mary’s life tense, to say the least.
Watching this play unfold is like watching a slice of life. Not every theatergoer hails from a small town, but most of us can easily relate to that claustrophobic feeling we often experience when trapped in a job or a home situation from which there seems no escape. The five young people all appear realistic and speak, thanks to Ms. Bond’s naturalistic dialogue and Cody Estle’s expert direction, like the people you know.
The ubiquitous, hard-working Mr. Estle directs this production with a particularly gentle hand, allowing audiences to linger in the moment with these folks and reflect upon our own lives, along with the characters. His cast is strong, each bringing impressive resumes and theatre experience that help sharpen their work. Talented Jeffrey D. Kmiec has designed a set that’s as bleak as the lives of these characters. It’s functional and artistic while remaining as plain and spartan as the rest of the town. And J.R. Lederle has lit this production with a cool palette that reflects the icy atmosphere of the play and its locale.
Shattered Globe’s latest offering is much like eavesdropping on a bunch of young people who, like each of us, are struggling to make sense of their lives. Audiences may forget that they’re even watching a play at all, so honest and realistic is this drama. Not much takes place but, ever so subtly, comes observation, understanding, new decisions and those small, meaningful changes that make living life so compelling and worth taking the journey with others by our side.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented January 11-February 24 by Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available in person at the theatre box office, by calling 773-975-8150 or by going to www.theaterwit.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.