Presented by the Queensland Theatre Company, David Mamet’s drawing room comedy Boston Marriage follows Anna and Claire who dwell on the fringes of the Boston elite at the turn of the Nineteenth century.
It may help to know that a ‘Boston Marriage’ is a term referring to unmarried women co-habitating for the sake of financial and personal independence. The relationship could be platonic or more romantic in nature.
In Mamet’s Boston Marriage, the aging Anna (played by Amanda Muggleton), in her declining wealth and looks, has become the mistress of a wealthy man in order to keep her and her long term live-in companion Claire in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. Meanwhile Claire has returned from a trip to ask a very big favour of her once lover and dwelling companion. While away, Claire has fallen in love with a younger lady and requests Anna’s help to harbor the two of them. I won’t give a spoiler for the catalyst for the rest of the play, but I will say the second half is full of scheming in order to avoid scandal, and more importantly, bankruptcy.
It’s interesting that Mamet wrote this piece in response to criticism that he could only write about men, and it’s refreshing to see female relationships represented onstage when normally same-sex relationships focus on males. And although they are great roles for women to play, Mamet hasn’t painted them in a very flattering light. This is a play about women behaving badly. The juxtaposition of high-brow pretense with low-brow humour, make these potty mouthed women with lusty loins and questionable ethics, fun to watch.
In true Mamet style, the dialogue is not just rapid-fire, but semi-automatic machine-gun fast. The text is lewd, crude, witty, acidotic, and exceedingly dense. You really need to pay attention to every word or you will miss out. Not that you’ll fail to hit a plot point, as that is pretty light on, but the word jousting is really the centerpiece of the show. There are some very witty and insightful lines, and some theatre-goers love the intellectual rigor of such wordsmith plays, but is it enough to sustain two hours and twenty minutes of entertainment? In a three-hander where not much physical action propels the story, the text feels more suited to a radio play.
To make the most of the play, it is fitting that Practical Aesthetics scholar, actor, teacher and expert in David Mamet’s acting technique, Andrea Moor direct this production. Moor produced a flamboyant, pacey production that played up the hilarious vulgarity of it all, allowing the colourful characters to come to the fore and make up for the lack of plot-point action.
Amanda Muggleton gives a diva performance as Anna, who is outrageously pretentious; part spoilt brat, part manipulative b*tch, part love struck fool, but always fabulously over-the-top.
Rachel Gordon as Claire is a slightly more refined, younger version of Anna, but just as self-absorbed, cunning, acerbic, and love struck (just not with Anna). Gordon was well suited to this role, had great stage presence, and a delight to watch.
The Irish, ahem… Scottish maid, who Anna never cares to remember which country she comes from or even her name, is played delightfully by Helen Cassidy. As the play is a three-hander, her presence on stage is a whiff of fresh air. Her comedic sensibilities where astute and practically stole every scene she was in.
The impressive drawing room set, designed by Stephen Curtis, was stunning with ceiling to floor drapes, a chaise lounge, gramophone and all the trimmings of the upper class.
Head of Wardrobe Vicky Martin, along with the other busy bees in the costume department including Leigh Buchanan (known from Project Runway), did a fabulous job with the period costumes. Often we as an audience do not see the detailed work that goes on behind the scenes, but after having a tour of QTC’s costume department, I have a new appreciation for the art form of costume design.
After it’s Brisbane season, Boston Marriage will tour to nine Regional Queensland venues including the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gladstone, Mackay, Cairns, Townsville, Mount Isa, and Nambour.
20, 21 February – The Arts Centre, Gold Coast
25 February – Ipswich Civic Theatre
28 February – Empire Theatre, Toowoomba
4 March – Gladstone Entertainment Convention Centre
7 March – Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre
12 March – Cairns Civic Theatre
14 March – Townsville Civic Theatre
18 March – Mount Isa Civic Theatre
24, 25 March – Nambour Civic Theatre
Boston Marriage is on at QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre until 15 February. For more information, visit QTC’s website.