Tag Archives: Grace Gonglewski

Boston Marriage in Philly

Boston Marriage
by David Mamet, 1812 Productions, at Plays & Players,  May 2-20, 2012, Review of May 2 opening for WRTI, 90.1 fm.

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.

Wilma does Body Talk

Body Awareness by Annie Baker,  The Wilma, January 4-Feb. 5, 2012. Review of  Opening night Jan. 11 for WRTI, 90. 1 fm

Annie Baker, whose witty Becky Shaw was here two seasons  ago has Body Awareness on The Wilma boards.  Anne Kauffman again directs. With a title like Body Awareness  there will be laughs; for this taste not enough. Baker, who was raised in Amherst (MA) where her mother taught,  has created a fictional  Shirley College in Vermont. Body Awareness Week – a proactive way of addressing eating disorders! – has been organized by Phyllis (Grace Gonglewski), the pysch professor who loves Joyce (Mary Martello), the mother of a  socially challenged son who may  have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Baker’s play attempts to poke gentle fun at alternative lifestyles and the academic Feminist rants against the traditional “white male gaze.” But the play’s own Political Correctness does itself in.  We’re presented with 20- year- old Jared’s discomfort  with his body and sexuality; then his mother, Joyce’s low self- esteem in the lesbian relationship… When Frank, the visiting artist arrives, Joyce’s attraction to his work with  the female nude  threatens Phyllis personally and her big Week. A dysfunctional family appears to come unglued.

The versatile Gonglewski gives the feminist professor a sly earnestness  swinging from exuberant pronouncements to stern morality. Martello whose comic turns have won Philadelphians over doesn’t have as much opportunity for them here as she plays the anxious mother. She and Gonglewski are first rate but Baker’s material doesn’t rise to their level.  LA’s Christopher Councill as Frank suggests enough sleeze and compassion to keep his motives in doubt.  Dustin Ingram — as the awkward Jared– has fine timing  and a waywardness to suggest something is indeed ‘off.’ But excellent acting,  and staging  (Mimi Lien) can’t overcome the problems of plot. Who believes a teacher’s son would not be tested for Asperger’s?  Baker’s script throws hints about characters it fails to resolve.  It’s tough to talk about sex let alone make it funny.  Body Awareness at The Wilma through Feb. 5, is often a downer and too self- conscious  for its own good.