Lakeboat, playing at the Theatre Machine in Toronto, doesn’t catch many waves
One of Mamet’s earliest works, Lakeboat follows the relationships and camaraderie of a group of men employed on a steel freighter over the course of a summer. Through the eyes of the newest and youngest shipmate, Dale, we get to meet and learn about the other men on board, from their life philosophies to how they prefer their liquor.
I had some trouble with this piece, mostly because I really wanted to enjoy it. I like Mamet’s frank language and I could appreciate the different facets of the men he had wanted to bring to life in this play, but I found this production difficult to get into. The pacing felt stunted at points and while I believe that most of it was intentional and meant to enhance awkward moments between characters, some of it felt unnecessary and served only to drag on the length of a scene.
I liked that the cast featured a good age range of actors. I think this would be an easy show to just cast with a bunch of young men and let it fly from there, but there was a nice balance of energy on stage between the high energy younger folk and the controlled bluster of the slightly less-young folk.
That being said, I didn’t fully believe in a lot of the actors’ portrayals. Line delivery fell flat a lot of the time and I didn’t feel especially engaged with the characters I was watching. Without that investment in the people on stage, I was left to deal with the fact that nothing really happens in this play. I wasn’t sure how long the run time was at the start, but when it ended after an hour, I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
For me, one of the best parts of the production was the detailed set design by Adam Belanger. The Theatre Machine is a small, black box-style space, which can be a boon or a terror depending on how you use it. Belanger used it really effectively, building a gangway, a common room, engine room among other ship-worthy spaces.
The other best part was Anthony Ulc’s portrayal of Joe, a weathered and slightly withered member of the crew who strikes up a friendship with the young newcomer. He has some great pieces of dialogue courtesy of Mamet, but Ulc brought a real sincerity and gruff tenderness to the character that made him endearing and fun to watch.