I find it difficult to talk about David Mamet. I’m not well-versed in his works, having read Glengarry Glen Ross in college and having trouble talking about it then. Now I’ve seen Romance and I’m still struggling to find my words. I enjoyed the play. I really did. But I’m not sure what Mamet is trying to say with all this and it’s killing me. As I wrote this review I felt it was best to take each scene apart and talk about them separately.
First let me set the scene: Romance is presented by the sparkling-new Kinetic Theatre Company. They’re using the Alloy Studios in East Liberty, which is set up quite perfectly for a courtroom drama. The sliding doors into the performance area make for a nice effect (I’ve never been in a courtroom, they probably don’t have sliding doors. Just let me have this.) I always like when a company can use a more unique space to its advantage, and it’s nice to not have to view a court scene from an awkward angle.
So let’s get to the case. Our Defendant (Patrick Jordan, last seen by me inA Steady Rain) is accused of a crime that is never fully revealed. The Judge (Matt DeCaro) is a forgetful man who keeps overdoing it on his pills (he forgets that he’s already taken them). The Prosecutor (Mark Ulrich) is battling desperately to get the Defendant put in jail, although Judge couldn’t really care less about what’s happening in front of him. If I were just analyzing Scene One, I would say the play is about a justice system that just goes through the motions.
In Scene Two our Defendant has a talk with his Attorney (David Whalen, who I see about every other month because homeboy keeps gettingwork.) Tempers rise as the two men’s different religions and prejudices against each other come to the surface. They begin to argue and hurl offensive slurs at each other while the laid-back Bailiff (Kevin Brown) eats his lunch and does a crossword. Whalen and Jordan work well together and wonderfully growl and spit their way through this scene. Literally, they spit a lot. I don’t know if that’s intentional, but either way it creates an appropriately funny scene for these two characters. For Scene Two, I would say this play is about how if religions could get along they could save the world, but how unlikely that is ever to happen.
The next scene shows the Prosecutor at his home. Now I’ve unintentionally seen a lot of Andrew Swackhamer lately, having attended The Importance of Being Earnest and the fab Evil Dead: The Musical. Well now I’ve literally seen more of him as he spends this entire scene clad in a see-through black apron and a little green thong. He’s playing Bernard (AKA “Bunny”) the Prosecutor’s young and flamboyant lover. I mean, really, Bunny is as gay as a picnic basket full of rainbows sitting on a brunch table in Fire Island. He argues with the Prosecutor, who is struggling with his work and ends up burning the roast for the evening’s dinner in the process. I guess Act 3 is about the Prosecutor coming to accept his homosexuality? Seems as good an explanation as any.
Finally we get to the final scene. Court is back in session. The Judge has a new prescription that makes him very manic, and DeCaro nails all the comedic moments given him. Eventually Bunny crashes the case and the entire courtroom switches into a fast-action scene of emotions and confessions.
So what’s David Mamet trying to say? I’m going to say “a lot.” But thankfully the cast and crew of Kinetic know what’s going on and they deliver us an excellent production. Go see it for yourself.
Presented by Kinetic Theatre Company
Directed by Andrew S. Paul
Written by David Mamet
Designed by Gianni Downs (Scenery), Keith Truax (Lighting), Julianne D’Errico (Costumes), Elisabeth Atkinson (Sound)
Starring Matt DeCaro (The Judge), Patrick Jordan (The Defendant), David Whalen (The Defense Attorney), Mark Ulrich (The Prosecutor), Kevin Brown (The Bailiff), John E. Reilly (The Doctor), Andrew Swackhamer (Bernard).
Romance is running now until August 2 at the Alloy Studios. Tickets can be purchased here.
Performance Date: July 20, 2014