BWW Review: Unlikely Friendship Found in LOST LAKE

From the onset of their relationship in LOST LAKE, Hogan (James Hughes) and Veronica (Chiquita Mullins Lee) only have one thing in common - Hogan's depilated cottage in upstate in New York.

Their lives have become eternally entangled by the end of the two act play, which made its Midwest premiere at the Garden Theatre's Green Room on Nov. 12. The "melancholy comedy" will run from through Nov. 22 (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus).

The play is the latest offering from playwright David Auburn, who grew up in Ohio. Auburn wrote the 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning play PROOF and films THE GIRL IN THE PARK (Sigourney Weaver and Kate Bosworth) and THE LAKE HOUSE (Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock).

Under the direction of Katherine Burkman, LOST LAKE is a solid marriage between Auburn's words and exceptional delivery by Hughes and Lee. Lee plays Veronica, a single mother who is trying to plan a summer escape for her two children and herself. She finds an online for Hogan's online advertisement for his lakefront cabin.

When she arrives there to sign the paper work, Veronica is not impressed with what she sees: a collection of empty cupcake boxes, a hockey stick and a razorback head are the room's only décor. She's a little leery of Hogan's promises to have the dock and the cabin shipshape by the time she arrives there but reluctantly agrees to a one-week rental.

When she receives the keys later in the play, Veronica learns something about Hogan. He is very good about making promises; he's not very good about keeping them. The cabin and the dock are virtually in the same state of disrepair as they were when Veronica first visited.

The play could have easily been turned into an onstage version of SUMMER RENTAL or a half dozen other John Candy comedies but Auburn's script and Lee and Hughes' performances add layers of depth to the premise. By the time the show is over, the audience begins to understand what makes the characters' tick and, more importantly, feel for them.

Lee does an exceptional job portraying a mother straining to keep a level of disgust and disappointment from boiling over in her interactions with Hughes. On the flip side, Hughes, who Veronica describes as a "creepy, backwoods, oddball freak," brings a character that comes across as both pathetic and sympathetic to the forefront.

Both characters have reasons for their actions. Hogan's flaws are pretty self-evident from beginning. He can't make the repairs to the cabin or live up to the promises he made because he is broke and estranged from nearly everyone in his life. His summer rental is his home and sleeps in his pickup truck on the edge of the property. His loneliness forces him to invent reasons to keep showing up at the cabin unexpectedly.

"I'm not some guy who is going to guzzle a bottle of whiskey in my truck," he drunkenly explains as he swipes a glass from the cabin's dining room table. "I use a glass."

Veronica's reasons to keep the rental agreement despite the cabin's many imperfections also becomes clear as the show progresses. The local residents haven't been exactly welcoming to her because she's an African-American woman and she is kind of stuck with the contract because she has recently lost her job and has no means to make the third and final payment for the rental.

What's nice is Auburn's decision to eschew conventionality and avoid any romantic entanglements between the two. At one point Hogan does rest his hand on Veronica's thigh and she shoots back with an "Are you serious?" quip colder enough to solidly freeze the Lost Lake.

However in the end, the two are left with something stronger than a summer romance, a deeply implanted friendship that will outlast any season or any rental property.

LOST LAKE will be performed in the Green Room at the Short North Stage's Garden Theatre (1187 N. High Street in downtown Columbus) at 8 p.m. Nov. 19-21 with two 2 p.m. matinees Nov. 15 and Nov. 22. For more information contact Katherine Burkman at katherineburkman@gmail.com or 614-725-4042.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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