In playwright Rachel Bonds’ “home in that tiny, tiny mountain town,” her own struggle and sadness in leaving her “home” is transplanted in a multifaceted manner on five adults navigating a small, Pennsylvania town. The production highlights the emptiness and longing in Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s gray, hill-topped and gutted set.
What is most enchanting in “Five Mile Lake” is how it plays on Chekhovian story structures and captures the Russian feeling of “toska” perfectly through its writing, direction and performance. In his translation of Alexander Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin,” Vladimir Nabokov defines “toska” aptly: “No single word in English renders all the shades of ‘toska.’ At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning…”
Each character falls into that vast definition perfectly. Mary (Daniela Colucci) yearns for a life outside of the town but feels responsible for taking care of her brother. The loss of her child causes a profound sadness and self-flagellation in Peta (Aila Peck). Rufus (Joseph Wiens) is narcissistic and terrified that his departure from the small town will amount to nothing or, more specifically, that he will amount to nothing of significance. And finally, there is Jamie (Steve Peebles), who seems content to stay in the town and build his home for a non-existent future family.
It’s a coming-of-age story as much as it is a well-executed and thought-out commentary on the expectations people put on themselves, as well as those around them. The unified cast manages to capture stagnation and quiet distress with a precise touch. (Danielle Levsky)
Shattered Globe Theatre at Theater Wit, 229 West Belmont, (773)975-8150, shatteredglobe.org, $15-$35. Through February 24.