Claire (Carley Preston) and Anna (T Loving) can't fill their empty mansion with love.
Think of Neil Simon's quippy dialogue with a razor’s edge and you’ve got David Mamet's lesser known but equally fierce “Boston Marriage,” given a deliciously crisp reading by Something Something Theatre, directed by Avis Judd.
T Loving and Carley Preston are the women with titanium jaws, biting down hard on each other – but with a proper decorum that is at times over-the-moon hilarious because both women are so angry yet so determined to prove their impeccable manners have mettle. A comedy of manners, Victorian style.
Also awesome is Jill Baker, no stranger to high-falutin' surroundings after appearing at the Rogue Theatre a few times. She plays the hapless Maid who works for Anna (Loving), a merciless matron who loves to flaunt her power over the hired help.
At the turn of the 20th century, Anna and Claire (Preston) once were lovers in Boston, a time when the city valued its British heritage and devotion to the London way of doing things.
Anna is determined to convince everyone of her worthiness by never missing an opportunity to demonstrate her knowledge of just about everything, even when she has no idea what she is talking about.
Claire is the cool one, always in control, always a step ahead of Anna, but still in love with her on some level. Claire would never embarrass Anna. She lets Anna do that to herself.
According to Wikipedia, Mamet wrote “Boston Marriage” in 1999 to answer the critics complaining he was a one-note playwright who could only write about men. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
The play never became a hit. It had a seven-week off-Broadway run, followed by several regional productions. Something Something Theatre selected “Boston Marriage” for its Women Who Dare season, setting it right up there with “The Taming of the Shrew.”
In the program notes, Judd refers to today's “coarsening of public discourse and the flippant dismissal of women's voices.”
SST's founding artistic director Joan O'Dwyer sees in the play a defining of helplessness and the fear that women of 100 years ago felt when all of society's customs gave men the advantage.
As the plot develops, both Anna and Claire feel hemmed in. They live in fear of being discovered as lesbians. Anna has no money. She must have a man who will provide for her. We see that no matter how proper these women appear in public, they are pretty helpless.
But “Boston Marriage” isn't necessarily about that. For those with no interest in feminist politics, “Boston Marriage” is still worth watching just to appreciate Mamet's ear for period conversation and his gift for writing dialogue equally rhythmic and mercurial.