Stellar East Coast Premiere of New Mamet Play at Great Barrington Public Theatre
Summer 2021 has brought forth many reasons for celebration and here’s another, David Mamet’s new short play “The Christopher Boys Communion” is receiving its East Coast Premiere by the young company, Great Barrington Public Theatre. The play involves a murder of some outsize proportions, a suicide, and a mother’s quest for the absolute defense necessary to protect her son.
The director of the play, Jim Frangione, is also Artistic Director of GBPT and has collaborated with Mamet on numerous projects throughout the years and as he describes in the program “What you want is a director who’s an actor and a director, like Jim. And one of the great moments of my life was when he showed up at this little dinky theater in L.A.-I didn’t even know he was coming-what a joy! -and said ‘I want to do it in Great Barrington.’”
The playwright goes on to describe how the audience is drawn from one moment to the next with the least amount of information as possible to make them wonder what happens next and indeed it is very difficult to review this play for fear of spoiling its most exquisite pleasure which was the attention we must give it to figure out what the heck is going on. The concentrated listening by the dozens of people was palpable.
The play doesn’t reward this fierce engrossment commensurately but it certainly holds your attention for its hour and fifteen minutes with sharp characters, bold and sometimes ugly thinking expressed directly and varied tactics employed to get what you want whatever the cost. Pure Mamet. It is finally too spare and withholding to inspire more enthusiasm.
The play opens with two cops, Monk Schane-Lydon and Kevin O’Rourke drinking Jameson’s and lamenting the good old days of nightsticks. O’Rourke in what is really an interrupted monologue is trying to make sense of how things have changed so drastically and slowly, we learn that a colleague of theirs is dead. He’s great in this role and the scene is fun to figure out. As Mamet so colorfully puts it in the program “They may be most easily identified as the Chorus by their resemblance to Marcellus and Bernardo, the two soldiers on the battlements of Elsinore, who discuss the appearance of the Ghost (in “Hamlet”). The Detectives…attempt to understand the evil they’ve encountered.”
The second scene reveals an upscale living room with expensive art and masks on the wall. A husband and wife, David Adkins and Keira Naughton are in tense negotiations when their lawyer, Mr. Stone, played very well by the measured and probative Will LeBow reenters the room and begins questioning and advising them on their case. We learn that their son is accused of a grievous murder of a young woman and the rest of the play will have us piecing together the clues like the police of our soul.
Keira Naughton is terrific as the mother with a protective fury that drives her from her Jewish lawyer to her pastor, Father Paul, nicely played by Nathan Hinton and finally to a medium of some sort, airily played by Diane Prusha. Yes, their faiths do matter. We have no trouble accepting that this woman would go to any lengths for her son and her lack of humility provides much of the chills in this evening’s dark journey.
A hearty congratulations to Great Barrington Public Theatre on scoring this theatrical coup. They’ve done themselves proud with a stellar production of this brand-new brief on evil by one of America’s greatest playwrights. It’s not his finest accomplishment by far but there’s plenty of interest to talk about.