Sunday, April 8, 2018


The playwright Frank D. Gilroy is known primarily for writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1965 play The Subject Was Roses. His later play, Lake, had to wait until after his death to be performed, but it finally received its premiere by the Hudson Guild Theatre Company, which completed their run of the piece this afternoon.

It's too late for you to see it now, dear reader, but I managed to catch the last performance. Gilroy wrote the piece for a panoply of 84 different characters to be performed by a cast of 10. Hudson Guild increased that cast to 18, and there's no reason its characters couldn't be distributed between a variety of different numbers of actors. Like A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room, the show's flexibility makes it ideal for high schools and community theaters.

Lake tells the story of a small community not unlike the one around Erskine Lake in New Jersey, where Gilroy's own family spent summers when he was growing up. In the play, developers fail to bury water pipes deep enough in the ground, so they freeze during the winter, cutting off water, but an enterprising salesman turns this goof into an advantage. He markets the community as "summer only" to attract a certain class of people, and lots sell like hotcakes.

The play follows the community that develops through the 1930s and early 1940s, but changes forever with the advent of World War II. There is always tension between the well-to-do families that summer at the Lake and the year-round locals, who are sometimes looked down upon as hillbillies, or simply as workers whose place is to serve. After the war, however, both groups have suffered unspeakable losses, and the old ways just don't work anymore. The lake community transforms into a bland suburb much like everywhere else.

Lake offers a micro-history of an American town from 1929 to after 1945. It is sometimes a sad, bitter story, but Gilroy has clearly tried to be truthful when telling it.