Victorian comedy hurls insults with class: If you go
What: "Boston Marriage" Where: RenegadeComedy Theatre When: 7 p.m. today, Saturday and Jan. 18-20 Cost: $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors Call: 722-6775 It's hard to believe that the same David Mamet who crafted the hairy-chested, coar...
What: "Boston Marriage"
Where: RenegadeComedy Theatre
When: 7 p.m. today, Saturday and Jan. 18-20
Cost: $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors
It's hard to believe that the same David Mamet who crafted the hairy-chested, coarse and brutal language of "Glengarry Glen Ross" also penned "Boston Marriage," which opened Thursday at Renegade Comedy Theatre.
The three female characters of "Boston Marriage" are no more charitable toward one another than the salesmen of "Glengarry Glen Ross," but their barbs and arrows are razor-sharp rather than heavy and blunt.
Mamet's lines in this play are, if not authentically Victorian, powerfully evocative of that era, when it mattered less how one behaved than how one described or explained that behavior. It's language reminiscent of Oscar Wilde, occasionally flirting with William Shakespeare.
The coy, baroque language and manners overlying the basest motivations make "Boston Marriage" as funny as "Glengarry Glen Ross" is disturbing.
Anna (Julie Ahasay) and Claire (Christa Schulz) are aging women on the fringes of the upper class. Anna has just become the mistress of a wealthy man, which she advertises to Claire by wearing an emerald necklace he gave her. Claire has become smitten with a very young girl and wants Anna's help in arranging an assignation.
The two ride a rollercoaster, from vows of the deepest devotion to outraged charges: "You Pagan slut." "Cold, cold, ancient, jealous hag." Between volleys, they torment the maid, Catherine (Cheryl Skafte), whose name Anna has never bothered to learn and whom she periodically persecutes for being Irish, despite having been told repeatedly that Catherine is Scottish.
When Claire's would-be lover arrives, she makes a shocking disclosure that threatens to have Anna and Claire jailed, not to mention financially ruined and socially unacceptable. Act II of the two-hour play has Anna and Claire considering a series of Lucy-and-Ethel-like schemes to avoid this disaster.
Director John Martin Pokrzywinski has imparted a satisfying rhythm to the women's moods, much of it through thoughtful blocking on the small but carefully detailed set. Anna and Claire converge when feeling friendly, fly to opposite ends of the stage when angry. When it's the maid's turn to be the target, she is flanked and crowded. Ahasay is wonderful as Anna, alternately smug and sulking, investing her entire being in whatever mood the moment calls for.
Though Schulz is still a little too fresh-faced to be credible when Claire bemoans her lost youth, she conveys her character's life-long relationship with Anna convincingly.
Although as the beleaguered servant, Skafte could easily have been overshadowed by the other two actresses, with a fierce intensity -- worthy of a Scot indeed -- and a credible accent, she holds her own.
As a verbal wink to the audience, Mamet occasionally has the women break out of the elaborate phrasing to utter plainer stuff, such as "You ain't ruined. Just don't tell nobody," as well as the occasional current-as-today vulgarity. When he really wants to get dirty, he does it not in the Victorian way but in the Elizabethan.
The entire script is rich in elegantly phrased double entendres worthy of Shakespeare.
Paul Brissett is a Duluth writer and amateur actor who has appeared in numerous community theater productions and has served on the board of the Duluth Playhouse.