Sunday, September 28, 2014

Old Mamet and New Milestone

so today on the schedule is an old play by David Mamet... this is a new theater company to us- one we have never been to- so we don't know the venue or the company... however here is some background on the play-

The Cryptogram is a 1995 play by American playwright David Mamet. The play concerns the moment when childhood is lost. The story is set in 1959 on the night before a young boy is to go on a camping trip with his father.

from the theater website -
Profiles Theatre continues its 26th Season with the 20th Anniversary production of The Cryptogram by David Mamet, directed by Artistic Director Joe Jahraus. Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Mamet’s rarely produced masterpiece, The Cryptogram combines mercurial intelligence with genuinely Hitchcockian menace. The Cryptogram is a journey back into childhood and the moment of its vanishing—the moment when the sheltering world is suddenly revealed as a place full of dangers. On a night in 1959 a boy is waiting to go on a camping trip with his father. His mother wants him to go to sleep. A family friend is trying to entertain them—or perhaps distract them. Because in the dark corners of this domestic scene, there are rustlings that none of the players want to hear. And out of things as innocuous as a shattered teapot and a ripped blanket, Mamet re-creates a child's terrifying discovery that the grownups are speaking in code, and that that code may never be breakable.

a review of a former production:
The Cryptogram is set in a “normal” 1959 household, but the characters, a housewife, her son and a family friend, are no happier than any of Mamet’s con men or schemers. Donny, the housewife, and John, her son, wait at home for Bob, the husband and father, to arrive and take them camping. John finds a letter from his father on the stairs saying that Bob has left to be with another woman. Del, Bob’s best friend, wants to comfort the family and provides a substitute father figure for John. However, Donny finds out that Del let Bob use his home for assignations with his lover, and she kicks him out. Meanwhile, John, an insomniac, begins to hear voices. He tries to talk to his mother, but she is too caught up in her own abandonment to hear him. Her anger explodes in the final scene. The powerful symbolism of objects plays a role in the play, and John’s father’s knife is the most important object. In the end, Del gives the boy the knife and tells him to go. John holds up the knife ominously, and the play ends.

the history of the production (from Wikipedia)
The Cryptogram received its world premiere in July 1994 at the Ambassadors Theatre in London, followed by US productions at the American Repertory Theater in February 1995 and Off-Broadway at the Westside Theater Upstairs in April 1995. Directed by Mamet, the play won the Obie Award for Best Play and Best Actress for Felicity Huffman. Arguably one of the most prolific and influential playwrights of the latter-20th century, David Mamet amassed an acclaimed, award-winning body of work.

So here is how things went for us tonight- an experience that encapsulated many of the worst aspects of "off-loop" theater... the doors were locked until 20 minutes before curtain time, when they finally deigned to let us in the lobby... where we stood until curtain time when they finally deigned to let us in to the theater for the general admission seating (whatever happened to ticketed seats?)

the actors were very good- in the case of young John, excellent!

Alas, the script I think would be a better read, than the actual production because pretty much everyone was annoying- pretty much all the time... yes, it had the snappy talking-over-each-other typical of Mamet but the Del character was annoyingly sappy and cowardly (not to mention the lying) and the Donny character was annoyingly short tempered and manipulative of Del and the John character was the MOST annoying (at the same time as being perhaps the most sympathetic) - he simply REFUSED to stop interrupting the adults, who were in serious need of some adult discussion without his constant interruptions. (IN my father's house when it was bedtime, you didn't have to go to sleep, but you did have to STAY in bed, you could read or as we got older, listen to music at a low volume but you had to STAY in bed - clearly this kid did not live in my father's house, and his character was incredibly annoying to his mother and perhaps even more so to me...)

so overall I would say - skip this one - first and foremost because to me it was 90 minutes of annoyance, but to add to the reasons to skip it - the absolutely unprofessional practices of the company- seriously what do they do when it is 20* below- make people wait in the cold outside until 20 minutes before curtain time? and then, if the theater was going to be full there wouldn't even be enough room in the tiny lobby for all the folks to wait inside until the actual curtain time when they "opened the house" and ALLOWED you to go into the theater itself.  Really is there any reason to make people arrive on time when clearly you plan on starting 20 minutes AFTER curtain time? I think not... give this company a pass... Raven, Timeline, Lifeline, Remy Bumppo (all small off-loop theaters) can all provide more courtesy to their patrons than this place is apparently capable of giving....

And to completely change the subject-  and on another topic altogether-  I would like to note that on Monday, September 29th (the anniversary of my parent's first date in 1948- 66 years ago) my blog hit a milestone of 41,000 post views (still a bit more than three weeks short of the fourth anniversary of my first blog entry on 10/22/2010) ... thanks for stopping by yet again!

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