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Lakebottom Prime
a Comedy
by Topher Payne

COMPANY : The Process Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta on Ponce [WEBSITE]
ID# 4572

SHOWING : April 25, 2014 - May 17, 2014



It’s 1924, and the wedding of the year is being planned by the lake in Wildwood Park. Nothing will stop Priscilla Tuttle from crafting the perfect ceremony, although no one had prepared her for the second-class status reserved for the mother of the groom.

Meanwhile, the bride’s mother is proving to be the embodiment of evil, all the bridesmaids have come down with malaria, Priscilla’s bachelor brother-in-law has joined forces with the maid to usurp her authority, and the city is beginning to drain the lake.

But as the water level lowers, the anxiety rises: There’s a secret at the bottom of that lake, and the Tuttle family will do anything to keep it hidden.

Playwright Topher Payne
Director DeWayne Morgan
Wig Design George Deavours
Lighting Design Harley Gould
Costume Design Jane Kroessig
Sound Design Charlie Miller
Properties Design Betty Mitchell
Brewster Tuttle Adam Bailey
Daisy Doverdill Amanda Cucher
Tucker Tuttle Larry Davis
Eugenia Doverdill Frankie Earle
Cilla Tuttle Jill Hames
Tilly Tipton Tuttle Jo Howarth
Mrs. Kelley Parris Sarter
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Lakebottom’s Not a Word
by playgoer
Monday, April 28, 2014
Topher Payne’s "Lakebottom Prime" is filled with indelible characters spouting smart lines and navigating through comically unrealistic circumstances. A wedding is to take place, and the mothers of the bride and the groom are battling for control of the ceremony. Problems at the Wildwood Lake venue include a mosquito-based malaria pandemic, noxious insecticide that has killed mosquito larvae-eating guppies, and draining of the lake that is about to reveal a secret thrown into the depths of the lake twenty-some years ago. The secret itself is pretty unrealistic, and drives the story well into the realm of fantasy.

Props designer Betty Mitchell has done a whale of a job in creating the object retrieved from the lake, and indeed in supplying all the props. Costume designer Jane Kroessig has done an even more impressive job, pulling out all the stops for the Martian costumes that are part of an elaborate plan in the second act, based on a movie a couple of the characters relate as having seen in the first act. Even the period-appropriate costumes are notably fine. The same can’t be said of Topher Payne’s set design, which shows a garden and the porch of the house it belongs to. The garden greenery has little apparent design, and the house’s clapboard is uneven, with a window installed backwards, lock to the outside. For a supposedly fashionable lake-view property, it looks pretty unfashionable.

The substantial, but slapdash quality of the set is reflected in the script to some degree. Although the play has now been produced in both Columbus and Decatur, many implausibilities remain. Most of the implausibilities are part of the charm of the material, but at least one seems to be merely a plot convenience. Eugenia and her husband found the "secret" object, while Tilly and her husband tossed it into the lake, causing Eugenia and her husband to search unsuccessfully for it thereafter, but when it’s time to retrieve the object, it’s Eugenia who pops offstage saying she knows right where it is. Two lines could have made sense of this, with Tilly saying they had tossed it straight out in the lake from where it was, and Eugenia saying she knows right where that would be. Do we have those two lines? No.

The acting is one of the major reasons to see "Lakebottom Prime." Mr. Payne has created juicy roles, and they’re populated by strong actors willing to wring the juice out of them (despite some initial line bobbles in the performance I saw). Jill Hames plays the mother of the groom with an unbridled energy unmatched by anyone else in the cast. Larry Davis plays her brother-in-law with more subtlety, but to great effect. Parris Sarter, as a servant, works very well, especially with Mr. Davis. Jo Howarth, as Tilly, and Frankie Earle, as Eugenia, play battle axe matriarchs with different sets of quirks. Adam Bailey and Amanda Cucher play the young, soon-to-be-married couple as individuals with their own eccentricities. It’s all great fun.

"Lakebottom Prime" was commissioned by Springer Opera House (which helps explain its Columbus setting) and acts as a companion piece to the earlier produced "Lakebottom Proper," which tells the story of a different set of individuals on the same side of town. While rooted in the historical fact that Wildwood Lake was drained in 1925, turning into Lakebottom Park (although one character repeatedly insists "lakebottom isn’t a word"), "Lakebottom Prime" uses history as a springboard to dive into a fantasy world. It’s an entertaining world, but it’s fantasy nevertheless. Director DeWayne Morgan has amped up the entertainment value, so audiences will eat it up, but it appears to me to be more style than substance. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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