As an immigrant from India, it was a special treat to see “The Lake Effect”, centered around an Indian immigrant family, by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, at www.theatreworks.org . Randall K. Lum has done a fabulous job with staging, where the softly blowing snow outside the window not only gives an idea of the frigid temperature outside, but serves as a prelude to relationships gone frigid with years of grief and animosity.
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, “The Lake Effect” captures confused notions around immigrant attitudes towards race and struggles between two generations growing up very differently, but without overly dwelling on these issues. On the contrary, the primary focus of the play is on human issues broadly applicable; complex sibling relationship between Vijay (Adam Poss) and Priya (Nilanjana Bose) and their mixed and unresolved feelings towards their deceased father and mother.
Vijay and Priya meet after a gap of several years, on a snowy, cold wintery day, after their father, a small restaurant owner in New York, passes away. I did not find it challenging connecting with their characters. Under their seemingly shallow characters, there is a deep, lingering pain from unresolved issues, that makes them very real. The play does not dwell on the grief and the pain enough for the audience to build empathy with them. The focus instead shifts to Bernard (Jason Bowan), an African-American bookie, who had developed a strong friendship with their father, during the children’s long absence from the scene. Bernard is a simple man. Having lost his memory in a freak accident, Bernard has little baggage, literally and figuratively.
Bernard talks to his dead mother, shares his pain and his blessings, carries no animosity towards anyone, and forgives easily. The beauty of Bernard’s character is that it quenches the audience thirst for deeper understanding of why other characters feel the way they do, how they will find resolution of their unresolved feelings of grief, pain and rivalry. Bernard’s ease in coming to terms with what life dishes out, makes it feel perfectly ok for any distance to be bridged with a simple hug, even with ambiguities hanging in the air. After all, grief and ambiguities are part of life and complex to unravel, but forgiveness and resolution can be very simple and happen when someone takes an initiative.
“The Lake Effect” is a beautiful play and will be on at www.theatreworks.org till March, 29.