by Beki Pineda
BOSTON MARRIAGE – Written by David Mamet; Directed by Lorraine Scott. Produced by Vintage Theatre (1468 Dayton, Aurora) through November 11. Tickets available at 303-856-7830 or vintagetheatre.com.
Historically, a Boston marriage indicated the co-habitation of two women — whether for romantic or financial reasons — independent of the support of men or conventional marriage. Henry James popularized the term in his book “The Bostonians.” David Mamet took the idea and ran with it. Words, words, and more words. The two women — Anna (Michelle Moore) and Claire (Kelly Uhlenhopp) — never stop talking unless one takes a pregnant pause to contemplate what the other has said. The words tumble out of their mouths in a charming patois of emotion and excitement.
Anna, in Claire’s absence, has taken a married man as her lover and he has gifted her with furnishings, clothing and jewelry. She can’t help but gloat a bit about their improved financial position and how she redecorated the drawing room in chintz because that’s what she thought Claire liked. Claire — not to be outdone — is all abuzz because of a new relationship with a nubile young lady and is hoping that she can borrow Anna’s house for an afternoon assignation. Pretty cheeky!! She wants her old partner to be her beard so she can spend unchaperoned time with her new flirtation.
Mamet proclaims in his on-line course about playwriting that in a play, you get involved with something that is unbalanced. “If nothing’s unbalanced, there’s no reason to have a play . . . but if something’s unbalanced, it must be returned to order.” Because of the unexpected actions of both partners, there arises an unbalance resulting in hurt feelings, revengeful actions, introspection, and finally, the return of a balance to both their lives. Charming observations and delightful expressions sweep fill the room in the meantime. Because the pace is fast and the dialogue pointed, the audience leaned into their world, not to miss a word.
Michelle Moore as Anna was a perfect life-weary woman of the world, willing to go against her natural proclivities in the pursuit of comfort and privilege. Once reconciled to her paramour’s new interest, she enters into the new arrangement with gusto and uses the situation to indulge in sexual blackmail. She has an affectation and posture that, while languid and natural, is also studied and reflects the manners of the time. She makes not a false move. Ably matched in style and enthusiasm is Kelly Uhlenhopp as the other half of this domestic relationship. She is all a-twitter at the thought of continuing the “conversation” with her new friend. While she knows she is jeopardizing the current relationship, she is in thrall of something new and exciting . . . and young. Her smile breaks her face wide open and her eyes sparkle with anticipation.
Throw into this mix an inept cheeky Irish maid in the person of Jean Schuman who is both subservient and disrespectful. She accepts her mistresses for what they are and regales them with tales of her boyfriend. One funny bit has her trying to wipe the tears from her eyes with an apron that is too short to reach her cheeks. Anna can’t remember her name and calls her every Irish name she can think of. Between the three of them, the imbalance reaches a crescendo and then sweeps into a resolution both satisfying and surprising. Mamet also confesses that his greatest fear is that the audience will beat him to the punchline. Not so in this case. Right up to the ending, you are thinking, “Where are they going with this?” Then an “of course” smile crosses your face.
Julie Lemieux’s charming Victorian drawing room replete with damask curtains, a beautiful chaise lounge, and hand drawn flowers on the wainscoting was a room we could all live in. Susan Rahmsdorff-Terry created some beautifully authentic dressing gowns and traveling suits for the ladies.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!