The Silk Road Rising production is a great example of what makes Chicago Theatre so vibrant. Theatres exist in the most unexpected places and they are good. Fortunately, our friends knew about The Lake Effect. So on a lovely early spring afternoon we headed to the basement of the Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W Washington St., Chicago, an imposing structure. In the basement, we found an intimate theatre awaiting its audience, which soon arrived, and filled all the chairs
We were treated to the world premiere of The Lake Effect, written by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Timothy Douglas, which held the audience riveted to their chairs. As the fascinating plot revealed itself the universality of relationships were made clear. This play moves along until there is an intersection of morality and ethics providing much fodder for discussion after the play ended.
Although The Lake Effect takes place in a depressed Cleveland neighborhood amidst a fierce winter storm, the effect was so realistic when African American Bernard (Mark Smith ) blew in from the storm, many in the audience thought it was Chicago’s lake effect.
The set was perfect. As an audience member, I felt like I was in that restaurant, but then the action moved consistently and effectively within this setting. Lighting and sound were very effective.
Vijay (Adam Poss*), an Indian American stands behind the counter looking at what turns out to be a ledger when Bernard (Mark Smith) enters coming out of the cold hoping to see his friend, Vinny, who owns the restaurant and get his usual meal of lamb biryani. Although Bernard knows a lot about his friend’s family, he has never been told about the young man, who says he is Vinny’s son and who immediately tells him to leave because the restaurant is closed. Bernie responds with details about Vinny’s life with glowing accounts of his daughter, Priya, but no mention of a son. Soon, however, we meet Vijay’s sister, (Vinny’s daughter), Priya (Minita Gandhi) and begin to learn about a complicated family situation.
The outstanding script holds great promise. Mark Smith’s performance is amazing. And although all the acting is good, Smith outshines Poss and Gandhi.
Talking with Mark Smith following the performance, he commented that this play is “raw and real”, that the “texture leaps off the page,” and that he needed to be “true to the words” to keep grounded.
Rajiv Joseph says, in part, “ On one level, these worlds are divided by race and culture, but beyond that, it’s a play about secrets and families and what binds us together as just regular people.”
I highly recommend a visit to Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W Washington St., Chicago to see The Lake Effect, which sets in motion a complicated web of relationships and conflicts that challenge our perceptions of race, gender, and success. I believe this play will offer you a new perspective and many ideas to consider and discuss.
The Lake Effect was co-commissioned by Silk Road Rising and Crossroads Theatre (New Brunswick, New Jersey) with development support from The Lark Play Development Center (New York City).
Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W Washington St., Chicago
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Photos: Michael Brosilow