Directed by Timothy Douglas
Produced by Silk Road Rising
At the Chicago Temple Building
Unique twist on family relationship makes The Lake Effect an engaging experience
Playwright Pajiv Joseph received a commission from Silk Road to write The Lake Effect. That was money well spent since Joseph’s play is most stage worthy and engrossing. Set in a depressed Cleveland neighborhood amidst a major snow storm, an Indian-American brother, Vijay (Adam Poss) and his sister, Peiya (Minita Gandhi), long estranged, become reunited by the sudden death of their father. When the African-American customer Bernard (Mark Smith) arrives to eat at the Indian restaurant, confronts Vijay who is hostile especially when Bernard tells him about many family secrets that the father has confided in him.
We learn much about the father: that he, late in life, becomes a gambler; that he never mentioned having a son; and that he doted over his daughter Priya. Vijay at first doesn’t believe Bernard then after watching football with his father, he now believes that his father had told Bernard much.
Upon the father’s sudden death after that Browns game, Priya arrives to loot any cash that her father kept in his wall safe. Much of Joseph’s 90 minute one act consists of confrontation between the two siblings. We also see how Bernard is a mensch who loved and respected the Indian restauranteur.
Eventually we learn how Bernard’s injury which causes him memory lapses really happened and why. This unleashes a series of family secrets that intertwine a unique interplay between the father – Priya – and Bernard. This unfolds as a complicated web that engages us a mystery. Without giving away too much, let me say that the plotting is plausible and unique. It challenges out perceptions of race, ethnicity, gender and the nature and definition of success.
This play will grab you and keep you interested throughout as we are surprised by who emerges as the hero and who becomes the villain. All three actors gave fines performances. I was impressed by the nuanced and vulnerable take on Bernard by Mark Smith. The Lake Effect give us insights into Indian American melting pot culture that finds old country values in conflict with the children’s American values.
Ultimately, what and why the deceased father did what he did fuels the action and reaction as all three characters struggle with their perceptions of of reality. I enjoyed this refreshingly take on the effects of one’s life on their significant others. This world premier is a “must see” event.
At Pierce Hall at The Historic Chicago Temple Building 77 W. Washington, Chicago, IL, www.silkroadrising.org, call 312-857-1234, x 201, tickets $35, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays & Sundays at 4pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through May 26, 2012