What the fuck happens at lake houses and country homes that every writer wants to set their plays there?
I mean that in more ways then one. David Auburn wrote the screenplay for that mid-2000’s movie The Lake House and his latest offering, Lost Lake, just opened last night at NY City Center Stage I. Spoiler alert: both are set at lake houses (except in Lost Lake, the characters are in the same…time period).
Please tell me there is some playwright out there writing a satire of this as we speak. Like, a play set in a Marriott or Hilton hotel room.
Okay, joking over; I just couldn’t resist, lovely readers. But when it comes to Auburn’s writing, there really isn’t much to say. It’s the standard faire - Veronica, a city-living nurse practitioner, opts to rent a lake house from the sub-standard living Hogan. What starts as passive-aggressive bickering on everything from the cost of the rental to each character’s personal affairs progresses towards genuine companionship.
While there is a palpable tension and a morbid mood underlying each scene - which reflects the livelihoods of both characters and a majority of their interactions - the story just kind of fades into the background. As Auburn starts touching on themes of misjudging other people and the notion of the lake house being an escape for both characters, it literally fades to black. The ambiguous ending and final moments of Lost Lake are powerful - and an indication of what Auburn is capable of when he is in the zone - but you can take or leave the rest.
Thankfully, just about everything else is on hand to compensate for Auburn’s complacent story. John Hawkes and Tracie Thoms are formidable in their power/moral struggle-turned-friendship. They portrayed their characters subdued features like second nature. J. Michael Griggs’ set is fantastic, so much so, I want to vacation there even though parts of the property intentionally dilapidated.
And Daniel Sullivan - in a welcome return after mediocre showings with The Snow Geese and The Country House - had a burst of directing genius during a scene transition. In what is later revealed to be a fast-forward by several months, the Lake House gets flooded with trash and clothes dropped in from an alcove. The audience I was in didn’t know what to make of it at first (a storm or a hurricane?), but in did percolate the proceedings in a "WTF WAS THAT?” sorta-way. Maybe because I was longing for something to shake-up the story. A nice change-up from me wondering why no one told Auburn “ummm...dude, your play is kind of basic, no?"
Photo by Joan Marcus