nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
August 15, 2004
The late Murray Kempton once wrote; “Critics are those who ride down the hill, after the battle has been fought, to shoot the wounded.” Before taking any pop shots at barrels of fish here, one must consider the following: When reviewing a FringeNYC play, you have to make certain allowances for the physical and/or emotional state of any given production. Ultimately the essence, the spirit of the play, is really the thing. That being said, I found Jasper Lake to be one big disappointment. John Kuntz has written a noir, of sorts, that resorts to trendy, familiar, thriller-film format. The first 30 minutes are extremely powerful, as he introduces his characters and the situations that later compel the plot. That’s why I am so disappointed with the rest of the evening. Let me backtrack a moment.
Jasper Lake is the story of two families, both with many skeletons in the closet. They are linked by infidelity, incest, murder, and the lake itself. The play opens with a young girl sitting in a bathtub. She hears voices (coming from the lake?). We hear the sound of a man drowning, then each character is introduced to us through highly theatrical dialogue that echoes from person to person. I was captivated and excited. After a brief and failed dinner party between the families, the play goes back to the lake. Here, Daddy seduces step-daughter, Daughter seduces Neighbor's Son, Daddy sleeps with Neighbor's Wife, Mommy has migraines, but watches the sex anyway through a pair of binoculars, Neighbor with penis issues tries to seduce Mommy, and is later seduced by Daughter. A murder happens that the playwright chooses to leave unresolved.
An ensemble of talented actors lift the text and Douglas Mercer’s direction was imaginative and kept the play moving along.
Jasper Lake has tremendous potential and is worth further drafts and deeper exploration. I hope Kuntz will consider taking his play to the next level. I would certainly consider seeing it again.