COM­PLEX­ITY OF RO­MANCE

David Mamet’s Prac­ti­cal Aes­thetics is a style of act­ing demon­strated to a tee in his play Bos­ton Mar­riage – and the Queens­land Theatre Com­pany have come to the party with their su­perb in­ter­pre­ta­tion

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - SHOWS PLAY - PHIL BROWN

If you love lan­guage, Bos­ton Mar­riage is a play you will revel in. Amer­i­can play­wright David Mamet has, as they say, a way with words. His plays re­quire a cer­tain style of rapid-fire de­liv­ery, too, and while that can at first seem a touch man­nered, once you get the hang of it you’re in for a thrilling ride. But, boy, do you have to pay at­ten­tion.

Mamet and ac­tor Wil­liam Macy orig­i­nated an act­ing tech­nique called Prac­ti­cal Aes­thetics. This tech­nique en­cour­ages an un­clut­tered ap­proach to per­for­mance, al­low­ing the full com­plex­ity of the text to come to the fore.

For this play, a Queens­land Theatre Com­pany pro­duc­tion which opened in Bris­bane last month, direc­tor An­drea Moor was ex­actly the right woman for the job, well versed as she is in the Mamet way. She stud­ied Prac­ti­cal Aes­thetics with the At­lantic Theatre Com­pany, the out­fit Mamet and Macy set up, and she has long wanted to do this play in their style.

Orig­i­nally, she planned to star in it as well but seems happy to have set­tled on di­rect­ing and she has three fine fe­male ac­tors to work with.

This was the play­wright’s pur­pose­ful at­tempt to write a play about women af­ter ac­cu­sa­tions he was too ma­cho. Mamet, the au­thor of clas­sics such as Glen­garry Glen Ross and Speed-The-Plow, chose a pe­riod piece (late Vic­to­rian or Ed­war­dian) and the po­lite world of Bos­ton So­ci­ety, with a nod to Henry James.

The eru­dite Anna (Amanda Mug­gle­ton) and her “et cetera” Claire (Rachel Gor­don) are a cou­ple, at­tended to by Scot­tish maid Catherine (He­len Cas­sidy).

Never mind that Anna thinks she’s Ir­ish and is con­stantly mak­ing al­lu­sions to the great potato famine. Claire has been away from their gra­cious abode (a spare but still sump­tu­ous set de­signed by Stephen Curtis) and re­turns to an­nounce she has a new love in­ter­est – a younger woman.

This dal­liance drives a dag­ger through the heart of drama queen Anna, who has been hav­ing her own fun with a mar­ried man who has be­stowed on her a lovely neck­lace, a piece of jew­ellery lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally the link be­tween parts of the com­pli­cated web that ap­pears to have de­vel­oped.

While Anna rails against Claire’s be­trayal, Claire her­self tries to ac­com­mo­date her same-sex sig­nif­i­cant other, want­ing to pre­serve their Bos­ton mar­riage.

What is a Bos­ton mar­riage? The term was coined in the gen­teel New Eng­land re­gion in the decades span­ning the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies and de­scribes two women living to­gether in­de­pen­dent of fi­nan­cial sup­port from a man. It may or may not mean a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship but the pas­sion un­leashed in this play cer­tainly sug­gests one.

While there were a few stum­bles on open­ing night, the ac­tors dealt with a chal­leng­ing script with aplomb, although it took a lit­tle while for all of us to get into the rhythm. Once that was es­tab­lished things went well, with won­der­ful comic mo­ments amid the drama.

It’s a treat to see Mug­gle­ton on the Bris­bane stage again – she re­ally is one of our greats – and it’s one of those plays where the lines are so good that you feel you should be scrib­bling them down.

Gor­don is grace per­son­i­fied and the per­fect foil for Mug­gle­ton’s Anna, who is on the verge of hys­ter­ics much of the time.

It’s a sat­is­fy­ing night – but don’t get dis­tracted be­cause you can’t af­ford to miss a word.

Pic­ture: ROB MACCOLL

Amanda Mug­gle­ton and Rachel Gor­don excel in

Bos­ton Mar­riage.

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