McCarter Theatre Center presents Five Mile Lake by playwright Rachel Bonds and directed by Emily Mann, which concludes the 2014-2015 Theater Series. The play takes place in a small, economically hard hit, fictitious town near Scranton, PA in winter. It revolves around a small group of 20 somethings, including two sets of siblings, who find themselves at the crossroads of life.
Jamie (Tobias Segal) and Mary (Kristin Bush) are bakery employees. Jamie is content, and is taking pride in renovating the lake house bequeathed to both him and his brother from his grandfather. He is also tending to his mother who lives in her own home. Mary remains in town primarily to support her unemployed brother Danny (Jason Babinsky), who has toured twice in Afghanistan, and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.
Rufus (Nathan Darrow) is Jamie’s brother, who is in the process of writing his Ph.D. dissertation, and unexpectedly returns from New York City for a surprise visit. He does not return often, and his visits are always brief. Rufus brings his girlfriend Peta (Mahira Kakkar), who is an associate editor of a New York magazine.
The arrival of Rufus is the catalyst of a series of conversations. Characters begin to reveal layers of their dreams, regrets, and fears as they examine their paths not chosen.
Darrow’s and Segal’s performances were wonderful. Each, in keeping to the refrains of their characters, was able to convey a multitude of underlying emotions that resonate with audience members so well, that you can’t help but feel you have known the characters your entire life. Bush’s portrayal of Mary takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride between comedic arguments with Jamie to a soul cracking meltdown.
Pivotal moments of the play rests on the shoulders of the two supporting characters, Peta and Danny. Actors Kakkar and Babinsky have relatively short stage time to make the audience connect with their characters. Their dilemmas are a primary source of upheaval. Kakkar successfully captures the essences of a woman silently imploding, while Babinsky brilliantly portrays a man struggling to contain emotional explosions. I will go further to say Babinsky performance stole the show and I challenge anyone to catch him “acting”.
Finding a group of such exceptional talent will come as no surprise to McCarter Theater regulars. Audiences might recognize Tobias Segal who recently played Octavius in McCarter’s Antony and Cleopatra. Kristen Bush performed in Proof as Catherine, and Mahira Kakkar as Maryamma in Miss Witherspoon.
McCarter Theatre’s Artistic Director Emily Mann consistently finds the perfect plays that appeal to Princeton audiences. Five Mile Lake is beautifully directed so audiences can pick up on the nuances of people in small towns.
It would be out of negligence not to mention the amazing scenic design of Edward Pierce. The rotating set displaying the interior and exterior of the bakery, as well as the facade of the lake house, will instantly transform you to their world. Additional sliding props complete the polished feel.
Five Mile Lake is a conversation starter that is worth seeing. It runs 90 minutes with no intermission in the more intimate Berlind Theatre until May 31st. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 609-258-2787.