Expectations are high with anything Jennifer Childs or Grace Gonglewski touches. And I hate to dampen them. But Boston Marriage, David Mamet’s “woman play” – which Childs is directing for 1812 Productions – is fun but not as riveting as hoped. Mamet sounds like he’s trying to out- stop Tom Stoppard. It’s such a high-falutin cultural shoot- out. Victorian drawing rooms don’t exactly suit the master of mean and dirty man talk – though Boston Marriage, written 12 years ago – securely winds its way around a lot of smartly comic and sentimental foolery. Anna and Claire, Bostonians of a certain age, are anxious about their diminished relations and dwindling bank accounts. Suzanne O’Donnell as Anna, the elder, has taken a male ‘protector,’ aka married lover, just as Claire ( Gonglewski) discovers she loves a young girl. But wait, these otherwise Liberated, Discreet Ladies are flinging insults at each other. They’re also abusing Anna’s immigrant maid.
Mamet insults are not only mean they’re very funny. As Catherine, the Scots serving girl, Caroline Dooner is terrific. The brogue, the stumbles, the scrunched face. (I look forward to seeing her again. ) O’Donnell’s Anna is a marvelous flighty character given to histrionics. Mamet’s lines bloom, explode, droop: O’Donnell handles the sentimental effusions well. But she’s prone to facial and other gestures oddly similar to director Childs’ (her longtime friend), whose comedy is well- known here.
Gonglewski brings classic timing and wit to the more tempered character of Claire but the part doesn’t quite fit this exceptional artist. It’s easy to believe Claire’s fallen for the girl; harder to sense past or present chemistry with Anna.
Eye and ear candy are provided by Boston Marriage’s chintz set, and Scarlatti-esque sound design by James Sugg.