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You'll need to be a code-buster to decipher the meaning of this Mamet play

Wednesday, May 23 2007
A cryptogram is a text written in code and that's exactly what this play feels like. For 80 minutes playwright David Mamet weaves a repetitive and inscrutable maze of dialogue, taking his time to get to the point. The drama, set in 1959, is about loss of innocence, infidelity, and the growing mystery behind a child's bizarre insomnia. Mamet's dialogue in this production is choppy, self-aware, and so un-natural sounding one wants to yell out after 30 minutes, "Just speak normally!" In a talk-back after the show with director Patrick Dooley, it was revealed that the cast agonized over the minute meaning and timing of every instance of Mamet's specific punctuation. The result is a performance that sounds more like a cryptic mathematical word equation than a story of a family in crisis. The small cast of three actors is obviously talented, and props go out to seventh-grader Gideon Lazarus for maturely handling his complex role. But it's only when the adults (Zehra Berkman and Kevin Clarke) begin to drink and slips of speech reveal dark secrets that this production becomes less affected and more intriguing. In one respect Mamet succeeded in writing a cryptogram because as one audience member said while exiting, "It is a weird play. I don't know what it means." — Nathaniel Eaton

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Nathaniel Eaton


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