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Theater review | Lost Lake: Character study rich in humor, humanity

Updated: May 29, 2020

David Auburn creates characters worth caring about. The former central Ohioan, best-known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof, offers further proof of his talent in Lost Lake. The recent off-Broadway play turns into a subtle two-hander about people coping with poor choices and bad situations.



David Auburn creates characters worth caring about.


The former central Ohioan, best-known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof, offers further proof of his talent in Lost Lake.


The recent off-Broadway play turns into a subtle two-hander about people coping with poor choices and bad situations.


In an admirable collaboration on the area premiere, Wild Women Writing and Short North Stage draw out the nuances of the sad-sweet comedy-drama, which opened on Friday at the Garden Theater.


Director Katherine Burkman grounds the modest two-act in the unfolding mutual discovery between strangers of their common humanity.


Like its two stressed-out characters -- a mother of two children and the divorced man whose lakeside cabin she rents for a summer week -- the play grows on patient theatergoers.

Auburn transcends schematic dichotomies -- male/female, white/black, older/younger and country/city -- by gradually building a pair of complex portraits.


Lost Lake requires actors to generate convincing chemistry even amid tensions and conflicts.

At the Thursday preview, James Hughes and Chiquita Mullins Lee met those demands with emotionally intelligent, often-amusing and ultimately affecting performances.


Mullins plays Veronica, a widow eager for a weeklong respite with her children despite family setbacks. Mullins projects a ravaged maturity, coupled with an understandable wariness about a stranger’s erratic behavior.


Hughes plays Hogan as slightly and disturbingly off-kilter. His loopy charm and puppy-dog friendliness seem to compensate for the anxieties of a lonely hermit refusing to face harsh realities but eager to escape into childhood memories.


Scenic designer Edward Carignan grounds the 100-minute production in a rustic cabin interior -- complete with a stuffed animal head -- that has clearly seen better days.


Although the first act offers just enough humor, as the two strangers meet and clash, to suggest a milder modern variation of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, the disquieting and ultimately more touching second act enters Chekhov territory.


Lost souls they might be, but these are real people with real problems -- with whom it’s easy to empathize.


By Michael Grossberg, For The Columbus Dispatch


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