Review: BOSTON MARRIAGE

 

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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