Two lost souls trek rocky path in "Lost Lake" at BTG's Unicorn Theatre
On the surface, the question seems a simple one — and simplistic.
The Berkshire Theatre Group is making a go of answering far beyond that with its current offering of Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright David Auburn's "Lost Lake," directed by Daisy Walker.
BTG artistic director and CEO Kate Maguire said the group's fall production is a deeply human story, and timely.
"David [Auburn] has an affection for creating complex characters in the midst of turmoil — characters that are flawed, fragile and real," she said.
The play — which previews Thursday, Friday and Saturday, opens Sunday afternoon and runs through Oct. 22 — is a one-act, 90 minute work with just two actors.
The recipient of a 2014 Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award,."Lost Lake" tells the story of urbanite Veronica (Lynnette R. Freeman) who needs an escape from life's challenges, and takes her children to a lakeside rental in the remote country.
What they find there is less than ideal, and that's not just the cabin's condition. Present also is a lonesome and quirky estate owner, Hogan (Quentin Mare). Perhaps not insignificantly, either, Veronica is black and Hogan is white. Both fighting their own battles, the two outsiders find complicated comfort in their mutual seclusion.
Walker said that in a play where every action and emotion bounces between two actors, there must be an intense focus.
"First off, you have to cast well," Walker said. "These really are extraordinary actors. You need that kind of talent on stage in order to keep up the intensity of each moment, but also adding a light touch. You never want to think that these people are acting. But you can't let those intense moments slip by. These actors take subtle direction and make it their own. They both brought a range of ability as well as warmth to each of their characters."
Each of the play's scenes, Walker continued, is framed in a way that helps sustain the action but has the audience wanting to know more.
"In a way, it's a very deceiving play," Walker said. "It's a serious situation, but there's so much humor in this play, too. It's very funny. The humor really helps us empathize with these characters and connect to the story."
This humor was also on Freeman's mind, who said it fleshed out the play's humanity. She also welcomed the sharp focus brought to the stage in a play with only two actors, saying that Veronica has to start out guarded, only to find many surprises in her new country surroundings.
"We're in the business of relating," Freeman said. "With a cast of six or seven, we have to take that relating in little chunks as we navigate from one scene to the next. But with just two of us, it's incredibly intimate."
Freeman added that an hour and a half of Veronica steadily building a new relationship with Hogan also leads to much of what makes the play timely. She said the storyline speaks to the country's current restless mood. It shows how people can find ways to come together, and how despite differences, they have much common ground to share.
"Their two worlds are very different," Freeman said. "The same is true in coming to the Berkshires to do this play. You're around the energy of nature. Back in the city, it's loud, brash, and the energy is much more frenetic. These two come from different places, both physically and emotionally — and racially too. Veronica goes from being surrounded by more people of color to the complete opposite. Yet somehow, she and Hogan can come together."
Mare agreed with his stage partner, adding that because Hogan has no gaps in character development, and the story runs almost in real time, it's true to life — as well as humorous.
"This is a testament to David's writing," Mare said. "Much of the humor comes out of who these people are, and the writing really brings that out. Hogan is very laconic, and he looks people in the eye. Not like back the city at all, where we all put up personal boundaries."
In all, Mare echoed his fellow actor and his director on the play's relevance to the present.
"I would hope that we stoke people's empathy," Mare said "These two very different characters find a way to connect in spite of themselves, with their innate empathy. Especially in the times we're in right now, with our country so polarized, I hope the audience finds that empathy is also stoked in them. Then we can look at `the other' and relate that in the broad sense their lives are really not that different than what the rest of us are going through."
Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter: @TellyHalkias
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.