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Reviews

WATCH: A short video (1min 9sec) of the reviews of "The Lake Effect."

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Kerstin BroockmannChicago Stage Standard

Rating: 4 Stars out of 4

Rajiv Joseph’s dialogue is believable yet easily poetic as he explores the difficulties of finding one’s place in the world through the eyes of characters to which the audience can relate. The Lake Effect, receiving its world premiere in a smart, entertaining and powerful staging by Timothy Douglas, is ultimately a funny and moving examination of families, culture and the American Dream. Douglas propels the action at a fast pace, but allows the characters and the audience to experience the full weight of the revelations the characters share. Mark Smith as Bernard is the conscience and emotional driver of the play; he finds all the nuances in several poetic monologues that encapsulate the play’s themes. Adam Poss creates a character that we think we want to get to know, using humor and angry sarcasm to shield himself against the emotions that threaten to surface. Minita Gandhi brings unpredictable energy to the role of Priya, capturing her fragility as well as her emotional and material neediness. Each of the actors capture their own character’s need for belonging and navigate the various strategies they employ to find a home, rather than a place to live.

Michael Roberts
Showbiz Chicago

Rating: Highly Recommended

Within the past two weeks, more than half of the productions that have opened involve the reconciliation process with a patriarch. But none are on the level of Rajiv Joseph’s gripping The Lake Effect which is receiving its World Premiere at Silk Road Rising. Under Timothy Douglas’ thoughtful and precise direction, this dramady weaves the story of a brother and sister trying to figure out the truth of their recently deceased father which comes together like a Rubik’s cube. The Lake Effect cements Mr. Joseph as one of our most formidable new playwrights. Mr. Joseph weaves a narrative like no other with an overall morality check on the entire human condition. The story moves forward to an emotional climax that will leave you in tears. Mr. Douglas has brought together a sensational cast who work impeccably together as a unit. The production values are flawless, including a realistic diner set by Dan Stratton which is masterfully lit by Sarah Hughey along with Rick Sims sound design which will make you believe you are in the middle of a lake effect wind storm. The Lake Effect ends up being about how we are all longing a mother’s affection. Simply brilliant.

Alan Bresloff
Around the Town Chicago

Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

The Lake Effect is written by a young, brilliant writer, Rajiv Joseph. During this solid 90 minutes of story-telling, we learn a great deal about the relationship between brother and sister since the death of their mother. There are some twists and turns in this plot, which I will not relate to you as I would not want to break the excellent flow of the action as directed skillfully by Timothy Douglas. Dan Stratton’s restaurant set is one that truly represents a run down area restaurant, one in a changing neighborhood that barely looks appetizing. The lighting ( Sarah Hughey) is perfect and Rick Sims’ sound and the props (Jesse Gaffney) are the final touches to making this show as beautiful as it is. Of course, the key ingredient for making a story easy to follow is a solid script and good direction along with actors who truly understand the characters they are bringing off the page into reality ( at least for 90 minutes). This show has all that!

Tom Williams
ChicagoCritic.com

Rating: Highly Recommended

A 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. 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. The Lake Effect gives us insights into Indian American melting pot culture that finds old country values in conflict with the children’s American values. I enjoyed this refreshingly take on the effects of one’s life on their significant others. This world premier is a “must see” event.

Katy Walsh
Chicago Now

Rating: Highly Recommended

This guy walks into a restaurant. The guy behind the counter says, ‘we’re closed.‘ The first guy, a gregarious man, continues to prattle as he takes a seat and pulls out his paper. The counter guy gets increasingly angry. The customer guy is unfazed. The customer is African American. The counter guy is Indian American. The set-up is immediately curious just based on ethnic. Then, it becomes compelling based on entitlement. Each of these guys believes he has a stronger right to be in the restaurant. Under the skillful direction of Timothy Douglas, the clash between Mark Smith (Bernard) and Adam Poss (Vijay) is authentic. As Smith and Poss deconstruct their relationship with the owner, Douglas keeps the conversation naturally flowing. Playwright Rajiv Joseph wrote a thought-provoking tale of ties that bind. Joseph illustrates how truth affects the characters. The flawed characters are believable and the dialogue is genuine and clever. He even uses lake effect snow as a powerful image to the overall story. Heart-warming. The Lake Effect has surprising depth in meaning while skimming the surface of this trio’s lives. I didn’t want the story to end. I wanted to see what happened in the next scene. The Lake Effect not only captivated my interest, it made me want to call my dad.

Tony Frankel
Stage and Cinema

Rating: Recommended

The Lake Effect contains some of Mr. Joseph’s now-trademark aggressive and furtive use of language in a compelling scenario. Add to that Silk Road Rising’s terrific production values, and this world premiere becomes a recommended affair. Although the father dies early on,The Lake Effect is less about the substantial issue of death, and more about the ties that bind. Mr. Joseph effectively stays on track with his theme: that past events forever shape one’s destiny. Admirably, Joseph also steers away from making his work an issue-based play. And even though there is a black character, a man who had been befriended by the now-deceased father, I don’t see this as a play about race: The themes of loss, love and connection are universal. Director Timothy Douglas wisely keeps the pace clipped and edgy. It is no small feat to have a world premiere be as effective as this – you may even be inspired to make that long-avoided call to your folks.

Chris Jones
Chicago Tribune

Rating: Recommended

Joseph's rich storytelling abilities — under the direction of Timothy Douglas — are enough to pull you into the story. This play is exploring one of the more emotional of the traumas and questions that often surround parents with estranged (or merely absent) kids. Who has their best interests at heart? Joseph, though, has other fish to fry in his Cleveland curry house. Not the least of those issues is the struggle of the well-educated children of immigrants, who might reject the careful, small-business ways of their parents, and surely do not share their accents, but who inevitably remain tied to their family in ways they struggle to fully process. You're never ahead of this prismatic play, which reminds me in places of Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts," but nonetheless manages to be very distinctive. It's especially admirable in its sense of balance — Joseph is no mere sentimentalist taking down ungrateful yuppies who don't respect their roots (although he lands a few punches), he's also chronicling some of the more paranoid and understandably closed-off tendencies of that first generation of immigrants. These are all deeply vulnerable characters, and the issues in play are not only complex in their exploration of race, class and education, they're also intensely personal.

Johnny Oleksinski
Newcity

Rating: Highly Recommended

Unlike Tennessee Williams’ plays of heat, Rajiv Joseph’s The Lake Effect, is a play of ice. The plot is still, like an O’Neill or a Miller, dependent on scorching revelations, providing as much comedic relief here as shock. However, the secrets in this play expose grander truths about society—our relationship to race and money—rather than just a sequestered time and place. Two siblings, Vijay (Adam Poss) and Priya (Minita Gandhi), do not return to an estate with a life of its very own; they reunite at a restaurant, a business. The restaurant, which though Indian, eradicates from this story any homestyle nostalgia, and consequently commerce becomes the crux of their brotherly-sisterly assaults. The ninety-minute play consists of only three long scenes and a monologue, but Timothy Douglas’ direction intensifies each moment to a point of crackling satisfaction.

Scott C. Morgan
Windy City Times

Rating: Highly Recommended

There's nothing like a good mystery to pull in an audience, and Rajiv Joseph definitely delivers one that exposes loads of family secrets in his new one-act drama The Lake Effect. Along with Joseph's great dialogue (including a very poetical visual allusion tying the play's title with guiding spirits from the hereafter), The Lake Effect succeeds thanks to strong performances under the assured guidance of director Timothy Douglas. The production is also aided by set designer Dan Stratton's run-down restaurant set. Although The Lake Effect is full of rancor and bad family blood, there is a glimmer of hope at the end that some healing and forgiveness will take place among the play's three emotionally hurt characters. And that provides a satisfying coda to Joseph's entrancing family mystery play that skillfully grips the audience's attention and curiosity.

Catey Sullivan
Chicago Theater Beat

Rating: Highly Recommended

With three, wonderfully layered characters, Joseph creates a puzzle of interlocking pieces that eventually forms a most unexpected and emotionally fraught family portrait. Joseph’s dialogue richly captures the fractious relationship between siblings while deftly filling in the blanks surrounding the cause of the family dysfunction. Under Douglas’ subtly effective direction, the three actors succeed in creating a richly realistic family dynamic as troubled as it is vivid. This is a piece that evokes compassion, laughter and shock as it explores a family defined as much by its substantial rifts as by its bloodlines.