Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: BOSTON MARRIAGE

Review: BOSTON MARRIAGE

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By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

So, what does the old misogynist have to say about lesbians? Surprisingly little. 1812 Productions gives us David Mamet’s Boston Marriage, a mildly amusing comedy about two women whose relationship is discreetly termed a “Boston marriage,” a 19th century nicety of phrase.

Anna (Suzanne O’Donnell) and Claire (Grace Gonglewski) are two wildly overdressed women who, as middle age creeps up on them, have strayed from each other. Anna has found a sugar daddy who has bestowed many goodies upon her, including a huge jewel hanging around her neck.  Claire has found a young girl she fancies and asks Anna if she can use her house for their assignation.

There is much “Byzantine rodomontade” as they negotiate the ins and outs and “ the Mumbo and the Jumbo” of these new interests, endlessly interrupted by a Scottish maid (Caroline Dooner). Once they decide on a séance as a final device to trick their lovers, they create makeshift exotic costumes by wrapping themselves in curtains; as Claire remarks, “The couture of the paranormal does not well withstand the gaze of the day.”  Who could resist a line like that?  It’s as though Gwendolyn and Cecily had flown out of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and had been archly tormenting each other for years.

How odd, though, to find David Mamet, the wizard of macho obscenity, who scorns and reviles humanity generally, who sees betrayal at every turn of every plot,  writing this arch froufrou bijoux of a skit stretched to two acts.   And how odd to find Jennifer Child’s director’s hand so blatantly visible: Suzanne O’Donnell’s facial expressions and hand gestures are almost exact imitations of Childs’, while Grace Gonglewski’s delectable honeyed voice is kept in strained upper registers.

And so the fun grows tedious through repetition and lack of subtlety; one longs for the sly, the venomous, the tongue sharpened to a point. There is not a moment where we feel these women are actually lovers and their occasional drops into vulgar speech are merely surprising without leading anywhere. Tonally, as well as comedically, the show is all in one note.

The sound design by James Sugg is charmingly overdressed in harpsichord, and the set, designed by Adam Riggar is overdressed in chintz. Alisa Sickora-Kleckner provided the actual overdressing by designing the ornate costumes. A Byzantine rodomontade indeed.

 

1812 Productions at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey St. Through May 20.  Tickets $20-36. Information:  215-592-9560 or www.1812productions.org.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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