Boston Marriage

Review by Willard Manus

There are two mysteries about BOSTON MARRIAGE. How could David Mamet write such a bad play? Why in the world would the Geffen Playhouse want to mount it?

Artists are often the worst judge of their own work, but there's no mitigating explanation for the Geffen's miscalculation. The play has a history and it's not a good one, having been pilloried by the critics following its three previous productions (in London, Cambridge and New York.

Even if those critics were wrong, there are many other reasons for not liking this production. First, the three starring actresses (Rebecca Pidgeon, Alicia Silverstone & Mary Steenburgen) utter their lines in such a weird, artificial, high-pitched way that only a dog could fully understand them. They have been encouraged--forced is probably a better word-- by Mamet (who also directed) to speak the same way all the time; as a result they come off like Disney animatronic dummies, not real-life women. Also, poor Silverstone wrestles with what's supposed to be a Scottish accent, taking a painfully embarassing pratfall each time she opens her mouth.

The threadbare, repetitive plot has to do with two upper-class, gold-digging 19th century women who live under the same roof in a lesbian relationship (euphemistically known in those days as a Boston Marriage) who talk endlessly about their male and female lovers. The humor is in the way they dish any and everyone, especially each other. It's all meant to be frightfully bitchy, campy and hilarious, but comes off as a frightful mess instead.

Geffen Playhouse, 10866 Le Conte Ave, Westwood. (310) 208-5454.