The term "Boston marriage" is used to describe the partnership of two women living together - either platonic or sexual. David Mamet sets this play in the late Victorian period where Anna and Claire are cohabitating women of high means. Anna has a male benefactor lavishing her with a nice abode and expensive gifts, while Claire is having an affair - with a young girlfriend. The women take turns taunting and terrorizing Anna’s put-upon Scottish maid, Catherine.
Much to Anna's chagrin, Claire asks her longtime partner to help bring her young friend to their place so they can have a secret rendezvous. Chaos ensues when it is known that Anna’s prized possession, an emerald necklace she received from her male benefactor, belongs to the mother of Claire’s concubine. With the clandestine help of Catherine, Anna and Claire scramble to create a story of how the necklace got into Anna’s hands without putting their relationship in jeopardy.
This story is a departure from David Mamet’s earlier works. Instead of strong male roles demeaning women, we have strong female roles demeaning servitude. Neither Anna nor Claire want to lose their friendship nor do they want to lose their status, so they conjure up stories, including fortune telling, to save themselves. Since this is set in Victorian times, the language seems a mix between Shakespeare’s verse and Wilde’s wit. The play is fused with sexual innuendo; estrogen and ego create a deadly combination.
Sarah Davida is perfect as Anna. Her performance shows off emotions of being brash and annoyed. Davida also controls the room when she wants, because Anna is the “master” of her domain. Lisa Manuli gives a nice portrayal of Claire, who needs Anna's blessing to sow her wild oats. Even though she also taunts Catherine the maid, she is only following Anna’s lead. We can see in her eyes that Claire is only doing it for survival, and Manuli shows it off with flying colors. Ivonne Azurdia is in scene-stealing mode as Catherine. Her Scottish brogue is on point, never stereotypical. Comic timing is important when playing a harassed servant and Azurdia is a natural. Davida and Manuli should also be given credit for getting a handle on the language; their chemistry is apparent as they handle the text with finesse.
Stuart Meltzer’s direction is excellent. It shows that the players took time with the dialogue, breaking down every sentence as he guided them like an experienced conductor. It shows that he knew to give these ladies what they needed to get their messages across.
Michael McKeever dresses up the black box space with drapes and furniture to show a late 19th century drawing room. Diana Lozano’s lighting is sublime for the times, but a little annoying when players are not seen on stage left. Crackerjack costume designer Meredith Lasher [see Kevin's interview with Lasher] gives the ladies great Victorian dresses with nice color tones. Meltzer’s sound design is relevant for the times without being operatic.
Just like the Madman Experiment is made up of alumni from Florida International University, Trap Door Theatre was formed in 1995 with students from New World School of the Arts. Coincidentally, their inaugural production was The Big Funk by John Patrick Shanley, also the recent debut production at Madman. Trap Door produces sporadically when enough revenue, talent, and shelter are around; now they are trying to find a home within the confines of academic theatre. Let’s hope the students learn a lesson when shown what professional theatre is all about.
Boston Marriage will play until March 20th in the Black Box Theatre on Miami-Dade College’s North Campus, 11380 NW 27th Avenue, Miami. For reservations, please call (305) 237-1438.
TRAP DOOR THEATRE - Boston Marriage
Stage Manager/Props - Mary Manning
Scenic Design/Graphic Art - Michael McKeever
Starring Sarah Davida, Lisa Manuli, and Ivonne Azurdia
-- Kevin Johnson