‘Dead Men Have No Voice’ – Episode Two of ‘The Lake House Chronicles’
London, Los Angeles, New York, wake up and pay attention; there is some amazing theatrical programing happening on Theatre Row in Hollywood, CA with the Stages of Gray Theatre Company. Owner/Writer/Director, Randall Gray has done it again… The second episode of his trilogy, “The Lake House Chronicles,” has just opened, and is damn hot! Quite by accident, I reviewed the first production, “The Lake House Project,” and found myself overwhelmingly surprised and excited about the kind of work this company was producing. I knew then and there that I had to return to see what they did next, and now know that I will be back again and again.
In what appeared to be the deeper story of Byron Meade’s extended family, Dead Men Have No Voice is a production about telling the truth, regardless of the pain that it might cause. Returning to his lake house to retrieve his stolen passport, Byron Meade is forced to face the music with his three children – all apparently from different mothers. He has to come clean with the truth about his own past as he is demanded by his daughter, Becky to explain the facts about who he is and what he has done that has so damaged her seemingly perfect world. She has a few issues of her own to deal with however, as she must now admit to her husband that she has a lover. This opens the door for even more battle, as husband Chris Devlin and lover Josh Townsend find more than ample time to physically beat upon each other. As if this cleverly contrived work weren’t packed with enough confusion, Gray also introduces a new character in the plot, villain Harry Mandrake who seems to be tied to each and every other character within the story. Moving very quickly and forcing the audience member to pay particularly close attention every moment of the show, Dead Men Have No Voice is a truly intelligent production.
I expected a number of things from this theatre ensemble, and all of them were pretty extra-ordinary expectations, I must admit I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to solid theatrical entertainment. To my surprise, I got my backside handed to me, “Dead Men Have No Voice,” the second episode of the trilogy, was simply outstanding. The amazing cast and outstanding writing had me wondering what on earth could possibly be coming out of this manipulative plot next. Turning the bend at every other breathe, I found myself on the edge of my seat with both aggravation (as I was identifying with the characters – something I rarely have the privilege of doing), and excited to see what on earth this writer/director could have come up with next.
There were some difficulties with technical issues on the Sunday I attended the production, but as it was an opening show, I was not horrified by that. The set had changed from the production so very little that I felt as though I were coming home myself – excellent choice by the directorial team. And then there were the performers…how does Gray find and train these people? I have been to several different theatres in Los Angeles now and NONE of them were worthy of my returning, and not once have I found an actor that caught my attention, much less made me want to watch their career. Not the case with Gray’s cast; Bobby Dean, portraying Joshua Townsend, seems to transcend reason and portrays his character in such a manner that causes you to love, hate, sympathize, and understand him at the same time. Rachel Kotin as Rebecca Devlin is not only a true beauty, but more powerfully, she captivates the audience’s attention; not to mention that she plays a drunk quite well. Jay Antonos as Byron Meade, apparently had a few mixed up lines here and there, but was so damned genuine, that you couldn’t help but cheer for the guy. Robert Sherry as Christopher Devlin controlled my thinking and I not only identified with his character, but found myself wanting to watch the entirety of this young man’s career. It was a shame he was not on the stage for more of the show. Finally David Humphreys as Harry Mandrake had a strong presence on stage, though it seemed overly odd that he was fighting so hard for the audience to empathize with him, as he is intended to be the villain.
The set is a brilliantly designed and devilishly decorated lake house sitting room, adorned with just about every kind of weapon imaginable, many of which find their way into the production as well. The theatre is welcoming and pleasant, though I am shocked that Gray, with this kind of programming, isn’t in a massively larger house. The facility was clean and convenient, and there is valet paid parking, though I must say that the parking staff was a bit rude. Excellent job and kudos to Stages of Gray Theatre Company.
London / Los Angeles, CA Theatrical Review Board