Prolific Pulitzer-prize winner David Mamet’s writing is marked by a cynical, street-smart edge that is so distinctive it has come to be called “Mamet-speak.” We get a generous taste of his style with pace, pausing and pretension abounding currently on Las Vegas Little Theatre’s Black Box stage. Mamet recognized the association of his edgy narrative style by noting his debt to Harold Pinter (Pinter pause) to whom he dedicated
Glengarry Glen Ross.
“Boston Marriage’’ premiered in 1999 at Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatre produced by American Repertory Theater and was directed by the playwright himself. Back then, it was seen as Mamet’s answer to criticism that he couldn’t or wouldn’t write for women.
Taking place on a realistic set (Chris Davies) of a day-room, complete with stenciled wallpaper, colored-glass garden-window, brandy decanter and stodgy furniture, we meet Anna (Jessica Hird) who plays upon her pinched wasp features and jutting lower jaw to telegraph her sharp, opinionated, shallow, prejudiced character to her live-in wandering lover, Claire (Natalie Senecal).
Claire is indebted to Anna for living support as Anna is patronized (“protected”) by an unseen wealthy patron-amour. Tete-a-tete, Victorian style, ensues as gilded mutton-chop Edwardian dress sleeves (costumes, Jennifer McKee) flail about with much ado about Anna’s garrulous emerald heirloom necklace from the “protector.”
Claire reveals her love interest in a young innocent girl much to Anna’s dismay. Thinly veiled sexual innuendos abound while their Scottish maid Catherine (Vanessa Coleman) scurries about hiding her intelligence to please her “betters.” Anna hurls vicious barbs at the “hapless servant” causing her to burst into tears on a few occasions. How very Boston Brahmin of her!
At that 19th Century time, Irish (Scottish were wrongly included) were despised for their country ways, over-breeding, and sentimentality.
They flooded into Boston straight from the potato (1845+) famine (caused deliberately by severe food rationing enacted by the English to decimate Ireland’s country population to grab the land).
All’s well that ends well in this period piece, which in my opinion, has narrow appeal and it is to LVLT’s credit they mounted it as an artistic exploration.
As a script, I found it mildly amusing but not compelling. The three actresses milk all they can out of this thesis-feeling script. Diction is clear and pace cleverly directed by David McKee; we leave amused but not transformed. It isn’t surprising that this was mounted first in uber-chic, liberal, Cambridge, Mass., for the idle-elite to reflect on themselves.
Even acting across the board with a note to all to remember the thin line between “hamming” and acting in period-style melodramatic works.
A few moments came close but they didn’t slip into “ham.” Thank heavens! Pinkies up! Runs through September 21.