There's an extraordinary play at McCarter Theater in Princeton, continuing through this month, called Five Mile Lake. The five characters keep us spellbound for an hour and a half, but there's also a house that serves as a character of sorts. Like the Veblen House, it's a fixer upper in a beautiful natural setting. One character values the house, not only for its inherent value but also as the legacy of his grandfather, and puts time and money into fixing it up. His brother in the play values neither the house nor the past generation that left it in the family's trust. The Veblen project brings out that divide in perspective. In the play, the mending energy applied to the house takes on a metaphorical quality as the characters seek in each other a way to "come in from the cold".
Another fixer upper, with less prospect of repair, will figure prominently in the play that begins McCarter's new season in September, Baby Doll, by Tennessee Williams. Perhaps it can be said that all characters in plays, whether houses or human, tend to be fixer uppers.
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