Tuesday, 25 September 2007

3CR Review > Boston Marriage

Reviewed by John Gunn on Sunday, 21.09.07 for 3CR’s “Curtain Up”
Sundays at 1.00pm on 855AM.
This play by David Mamet (who usually writes male orientated works) was written in 1999 and set at the turn of the 20th century, it concerns two women who are engaged in both a physical and emotional relationship hence, apparently, the term … “Boston marriage."

The play opens with Anna (Helen Hopkins) and Claire (Corinne Davies) arguing over Claire’s new found love while Anna’s Scottish maid Catherine (Eleanor Wilson) has to bear the brunt of both Anna and Claire’s harsh verbal rebukes. Important to consider just how ladies of the Victorian era survived financially and there aren’t many options – marriage to a gentleman of the same class, private income or allowance from the family….employment is definitely not on the agenda …

To overcome this predicament Anna has … er…’crossed the floor’… so to speak and taken on a male lover … a ‘protector’ who provides her with a comfortable roof over her head and ample means … but a problem rears its ugly head due to a slight slip by Anna re the gift of an emerald necklace from her lover and this becomes a major crisis in conjunction with the fickle actions of the two-timing Claire … the patsy of these two women is the hapless Scottish maid, Catherine on whom they regularly vent their spleens.

The play delivers some quick, witty dialogue of the Victorian era interspersed with, on occasion, more modern idioms and allows you the entrée into the lives of these three women (however unreal these seem to be), it is also mixed with some double entendres that further sorta kinda explain the relationships and (to me) their neurotic flights of fancy.

The two ‘ladies’ bitch and scrap throughout the play, scheming selfishly and fantastically over just how they can have their cake and eat it too … ie. how to maintain their genteel way of life. In the middle of all this mayhem they (true to their snobbish Boston class) treat their Scottish maid Catherine abominably, writing her off in their vitriolic and insensitive ways as a bit of bog Irish. The setting for these shenanigans is Anna’s elegant drawing room.

Wayne Pearn’s direction is well-paced and tight with the dialogue and characters being fully explored and given the necessary and often histrionic emotional treatment by the three actors. If, towards the end of the play when Anna’s emerald necklace takes on a major role, the play does tend towards farce, I feel it is in the writing and not this production.

Paul King’s simple yet classy set design fits the bill, also Wendy Drowley’s excellent costumes give a Victorian elegance and I was glad to see that these did not fall back on the ‘obvious’ of quasi male attire … also chuckled over the Beardsley type costumes towards the end of the play.

My one small quibble was the modern music played at the start of the play … maybe I missed some important point in the lyric but to me it did seem a little out of place for the period, particularly coming from a 19th century gramophone.

The three actors were uniformly good with Helen Hopkins and Corinne Davies running the full emotional gamut … wicked but so delicious although I must say I did have a soft spot for the poor down trodden maid played by Eleanor Wilson.

To sum up, a witty and entertaining caper that shouldn’t offend anyone - and it is good to see an all female ensemble on stage; some may go all ‘womens rights’ etc on this play but I don’t think it’s a work to take really seriously … it’s just a jolly good romp and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Boston Marriage continues at the Brunswick Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre, cnr Sydney and Glenlyon Roads, Brunswick (right on the tramline) until the 6/10 at 8.15pm and there is a 5pm performance today and bookings are on 9016 3873 … well worth a visit.

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