Two libertines and a maid
The B Street Theatre, which enjoyed a hit with Around the World in 80 Days, leaps right back into the late 19th century with David Mamet’s Boston Marriage.
Of course, the new show is a very different kettle of fish. Around the World was about honor and derring-do, with a zillion characters in exotic locales. Boston Marriage, on the other hand, is a three-character comedy in a polite drawing room—though it isn’t a “drawing room comedy.” The story revolves around illicit assignations, and each is subject to tough negotiations.
Anna (Amy Resnick) is the mistress of a wealthy businessman who keeps her in well-appointed quarters. She doesn’t care about men (they’re good for “just the one thing”), but she enjoys her luxuries. She’s joined by Claire (Jamie Jones), an intimate partner, who wants to borrow the plush quarters for a quiet quickie with a girl who apparently hasn’t reached the age of consent. Heated conversation ensues, followed by a calculated deal. And, of course, things go wrong.
Comic relief is interjected by Anna’s simple maid, Catherine (Tate Hanyok). She endures repeated verbal blasts from Anna, including a tremendous barrage of putdowns involving the Irish potato famine, burning peat, and all things Irish. (Being Irish wouldn’t become cool until the Abbey Theatre got going in 1904.)
Playwright Mamet has a field day exploring—on his own terms—the kind of territory staked out in The Importance of Being Earnest by Irish wit Oscar Wilde (whose career was destroyed in 1895 when he became publicly involved with a young lord). Anna dishes up hilarious Wilde-like speeches, such as this: “Yes, this shall be our party. And we must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” Then, in a flash, Anna and Claire can be after each other, yelling, “Pagan slut!” or “Evil old bitch!” (What’s a Mamet play without a few coarse words?)
Delicious as these contrasts are—and director Michael Stevenson arranges them nicely—one can’t escape the sense that this little play (barely 90 minutes) runs out of ideas midway through. Mamet brings the maid back once too often, and, dramatically, the script never deepens into more than a list of its diverse parts. Resnick also bites off her words a lot, which is an odd choice. And although the sense that we’re in 19th-century Boston is reinforced by Abby Parker’s costumes, it isn’t always sustained by the cast, and it is definitely undercut by the uncredited sound design, which tilts toward contemporary pop.