On January 17, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) introduced You Lost Me by Bonnie Metzgar. The title is fitting for a play that possesses all the qualities of an interesting story but fails to live up to its own expectations. Overall, You Lost Me is riddled with generational stereotypes, confusing regional accents, and poor character development that adds nothing to the plot.
The bones of the play rely on the real-life story of seventeen-year-old Ann Harvey who rescued 163 Irish immigrants shipwrecked off the coasts of Newfoundland, Canada, in 1828. You Lost Me effortlessly weaves in and out of this past time with the present story, allowing audiences to get a mix of Newfoundland history and legend, in addition to a contemporary tale about Ann Harvey’s namesake trying to leave her mark at the Harvey family homestead, now called the Shipwreck Inn.
The main plot hole behind making this a semi-fictional play, however, is that it fails to thoroughly establish the immigration history between Newfoundland and Ireland, subsequently creating confusion to the setting in which the play takes place (it also doesn’t help when the actors botch their characters’ Irish-Canadian accents).
The main story, set in present day Newfoundland town of Isle aux Morts, focuses on Ann Harvey (Tara Falk) trying to keep the Harvey family name and business alive as she tries to attract tourists to the once legendary house. Ann Harvey is a woman rooted in traditions but finds herself sparring with her teenage nephew, Joe-L (Luke Lamontagne), a dark and troubled poet, who wants nothing to do with the business or Newfoundland in general, as he seeks escape and a new life.
Joe-L, perhaps the worst character of the play, is the main antagonist written from the biased perspective of a Gen X’er (born between 1965 and 1979). Joe-L is the embodiment of Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) stereotypes complete with a bad attitude, no respect for the generation or traditions before him, lazy, whiny, and, most importantly, “misunderstood.” Along with the conflict Joe-L creates with his aunt, he also finds himself in conflict with his girlfriend Edna (Marié Botha) who wants to leave behind their juvenile antics in favor of getting sober and leading a more adult life.
In reaching the play’s resolution, the final two acts of You Lost Me jump ahead six months following a traumatic accident whilst introducing new characters like a happy-go-lucky priest, named Pastor Paul (Gareth Saxe), who becomes Ann Harvey’s main love interest, and a lesbian couple looking for a relaxing and remote getaway at the Shipwreck Inn. The play attempts to use these characters as reincarnations of the shipwrecked people who once inhabited the Harvey homestead, but it feels rushed and plays too much off of the “ghosts of the past will continue to haunt those in the present” trope.
The one good thing You Lost Me does is use the real-life events of a beautifully haunting past to juxtapose itself with modern day times. However, the execution following this story becomes too ambitious for itself in a two-hour runtime to fluidly discuss themes of intergenerational conflict, tradition, alcoholism, loss, grief and, as a result, the play leaves nothing to be desired.
You Lost Me plays at the Denver Center for Performing Arts until February 23.