Monday, September 28, 2009

Two Unrelated Plays by David Mamet

"Two Unrelated Plays by David Mamet" at the Atlantic Theater Company, September 26, 2009

It seems as though Mr. Mamet has taken up the economy of writing that Ethan Coen has exhibited at the Atlantic Theatre Company over the last couple of seasons (Offices, Almost An Evening) and presented a similar character study, along with a more fully written one-act play.

In the character study/sketch, "School," Mr. Mamet begins with something of a riff on the old Abbott and Costello "Who's On First" as two school administrators (ostensibly) argue the merits of a grade-level wide project to create hundreds of posters extolling the theme of "Recycle Paper and Save the World." The following stream of concious (or more simply non-sequiturs) run the topic from recycling to the destruction of matter to the destruction of Dresden to the nature of history to the registration of child molesters and then bouncing back through, resulting in conspiracy theory suspecting the Custodial Union of political plotting. We never learn anything about these characters named only A (John Pankow) and B (Rod McLachlan), though the actors do manage to sustain the patter for the full 10 minutes of the piece.

In the second presentation "Keep Your Pantheon," Strabo (Brian Murray), the actor/manager of a Roman troupe, struggles to keep the act booked while lusting after his young protege Philius (Michael Cassidy). Pelargon (John Pankow), the other troupe member hangs out attempting to be a seldom successful voice of reason. Havoc ensues as they search for ways to get the troupe hired, ending up in the wrong house and insulting the General who enlists them to die at Caesar's command following the legion's recent military loss. Toss in a drunken hobo and a lucky (or unlucky) talisman and you end up almost as confused as I was. Beside the convoluted plot, the dialogue is pretty funny, reminiscent of the anachronistic humor of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Mr. Murray's Shakespearean Strabo, replete with an old man's beer gut carries most of the show. Mr. Cassidy's Philius is a Roman twinkie in the truest sense, barely able to speak but a physical beauty. Jordan Lage gives an understated take on Lupus Albus (white wolf) the insulted General reminding me a bit of Patrick Warburton (Elaine's boyfriend Puddy on Seinfeld).

Takeshi Kata's sets are serviceable if a bit spartan, generally complemented by Christopher Akerlind's lighting. Director Neil Pepe uses a heavy hand for the almost vaudevillian proceedings, heavy on the sight gags, stand-up one-liners and double-takes.

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