Workhaus's Lake Untersee Makes Little of its Ideas

Michael Booth, Adelin Phelps, and Jennifer Blagen.

Michael Booth, Adelin Phelps, and Jennifer Blagen.

Producing brand-new work is a bracing and frightening proposition for a theater company. It can be the same for an audience, who walk into the truly unknown, wondering if what they are going to see will succeed or fail.

Workhaus Collective's Lake Untersee falls into the second camp. It's a disorganized mess of a piece, loaded with unlikeable characters, preposterous action, and a tone-deaf script.

See also: The Hollow: Mess in the Bayou


Joe Waechter's piece centers on a fractured family. There are the distracted, divorced parents, the new girlfriend, and Rocky, a troubled teenager who dreams of saving his secret lover, a mysterious being trapped under the Antarctic ice.

This kind of absurdist whimsy can work, but Waechter doesn't fully commit to his concept, making the actions of the characters all the more puzzling. It's hard to imagine that any upper-class couple wouldn't look to get their disturbed son some help.

Rocky is troubled far beyond dreams of a lover he communicates with via the snow. He has trouble dealing with anyone, resorting to grunts and shouts whenever things get hard to control.

Michael Thurston.

Michael Thurston.

Mom is a best-selling writer. Dad is a doctor. Neither has much to offer. Dad's girlfriend, Gale, doesn't have much to offer us either. Think of being at a party with four dull, particularly unpleasant people. And you can't leave.

Waechter's style gets in the way, as well. The characters spend long stretches babbling on their own about their lives and work. This saps any of the drama that occasionally builds up.

The quartet of actors are game for whatever the playwright tosses their way, breathing life into their cardboard characters where none would seem to exist. All in all, it's an uninspired show that looks to be multiple drafts away (if ever) before it is truly ready for the stage.


Lake Untersee Through September 27 Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis $18 For tickets and more information, call 612.339.4944 or visit online.