What a fun little show! Playwright Richard Dresser has added just enough savor of the real-life story of Boston crime boss James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger (1929- ) and his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig’s (1951- ) sixteen years on the lam, to make The Last Days of Mickey and Jean into a light and tasty concoction for a summer’s afternoon or evening of theatre.
I have never been “on the lam” or had a price on my head, but I have been on away vacation with my family. The joke in our household is that, as soon as we pull into the driveway on our homeward-bound trip, the doors of the car fly open and we bolt out in four different directions, heading as far away from each other as possible. And that is after four or five days together. Bulger and Greig were on “permanent holiday” together for sixteen years!!! As we now know, they were hiding in plain sight in southern California, but their sense of isolation and paranoia must have been even more oppressive than if they had been living in a yurt on the steppes of Outer Mongolia.
Dresser sends Mickey (Duncan M. Rogers), a Boston crime boss who has taken “early retirement,” and Jean (Bev Sheehan), his long-time mistress but never his wife, on an “extended” seven year “holiday” in Europe, where the language barriers mean that they literally have no one to talk to but each other. Anyone who has ever been trapped in, er, committed to a long-term relationship with another human being can relate to the strong bond of love and loathing that has developed between these two.
So when Jean meets up with a guy named Bobby (Oliver Wadsworth) from the old neighborhood in South Boston in the café at the Louvre, you can understand the attraction: 1) He is not Mickey, 2) He can take her back to the place (although not the time) where she was young and carefree.