A powerful new play by Rajiv Joseph
By Iride Aparicio

Photos by:  Kevin Berne

Left-Right Bernard (JASON BOWEN  and Priya (NILANJANA BOSE)
   Left-Right Bernard (JASON BOWEN  and Priya (NILANJANA BOSE)

PALO ALTO, CA—On its press opening night, three excellent actors kept the audience listening attentively to their dialogue, during the West Coast premiere of  the play “THE LAKE EFFECT” presented by Theatre Works at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.

Part of the appeal of this play, written by  Pulitzer Prize finalist  RAJIV JOSEPH, and the winner of the Joseph Jefferson Award for new Play, is that the  story is interesting, that  Director GIOVANNA SARDELLI managed to put realism into the acting, and that scenic Designer WILSON CHIN designed a set for it with vivid imagination.

The set represent the interior of and Indian (from India) restaurant located in Cleveland. The time is Now. Inside the restaurant, illuminated with lamps on the ceiling and on the walls and decorated with strings of Christmas-like multi-color bulbs over  the doors and windows, we see tables and chairs. There is a counter, on the back, and standing behind the counter, various shelves containing liquor bottles and cups. The restaurant has a glass door and two large glass windows overlooking the street. Through the windows we see a building across the street and a parked car, covered by snow. In a beautiful effect, we also see the snow falling outside, through the duration of the play. BERNARD (JASON BOWEN)

The restaurant is already closed, when the door opens and Bernard (JASON BOWEN, a tall African-American man, wearing a “hoody” (sweatshirt with a hood) under a heavy jacket and jeans, enters the restaurant and sits on a chair.  He is told by Vijay (ADAM POSS) a young Indian man cleaning the restaurant, that he has to leave because the restaurant is closed. A long dialogue between  the two men, makes us aware that Bernard, did not know that Vijay was the son of the restaurant’s owner, because his father had never mentioned Vinay to him, and that there is a complete lack of communication between father and son in this family. 

Bernard, who identifies himself  to Vijay as a “customer,” knows much more about Vijay’s family than he does.  He even knows the name of  Vijay’s father’s doctor, and even detects that Vijay is lying when he tells him that the doctor came to visit his father this morning, because the doctor is on vacation. 


The story of the family from India,  gets more complicated on Scene Two, when Priya, (NILANJANA BOSE) Vinay’s   sister, comes to visit her father and is surprised to see Vinay. There is a big fight, between the brother and sister related to their mother’s death, and during their fight, the audience learns many more secrets from this dysfunctional family, where it is obvious that hatred, replaced love..

The revelation of these  “secrets,” absorb the attention of the audience as we learn that Bernard, loves Vinay's father, who he considers his only friend because he saved his life.  After we learn that Bernard was a victim of a horrible attack, we  began empathizing with him. Sadly, the audience cannot empathize with either Priya or Vinay in spite that, in character, both the brother and sister are honorable: Vinay tells  Bernard about his father’s will, and also the truth about the person who almost killed him by hitting his head with a brick. Yet, sadly, Vinay’s hatred towards his father is not something that makes his character appealing to the audience, and at the end, what he does to his father’s ashes, even disgusting to watch.

On her part, Priya, has also hurt her father in the past, but she has a redeeming asset: she  has integrity, and she is not greedy. In spite of being broke, she refuses to accept the money.

L-R Bernard (BOWEN) Priya (BOSE) and Vijay (POSS)
            L-R Bernard (BOWEN) Priya (BOSE) and Vijay (POSS)

THE LAKE EFFECT  is not a comedy, but at times, it makes the audience laugh. Its dialogue is crisp and the acting  realistic. The weakness in the play, is that there is no orchestration in the play's characters: every one of them is passive, and because they have no goals, no one is willing to take action.

Listening to their conversations, the audience concludes that in their past, every one of them accepted everything that happened in his or her life, humbly, which makes us wonder if the reason was that the Indian heritage of both Priya and Vinay had taught them to accept their troubles as “Karma.” As for  Bernard, he may not even remember them, because he suffers from amnesia and has a damaged mind. Sadly, in this play and in the present time, the characters are doing nothing again to resolve their problems.

As they discuss the current events with each other, the audience sits nervously on their seats anxious to find out what is going to happen to them next. Will they go their different ways? Will they remain in Cleveland and work in the Indian Restaurant together? What will they do with all the money? Suddenly, the play ends.

THE LAKE EFFECT will continue playing until March 25. For information call Theatreworks.org or 650-463-l960

Bernard, (BOWEN) Priya (BOSE and VIJARY POSS
                    Bernard, (BOWEN) Priya (BOSE and VIJARY POSS