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Romance

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About David Mamet’s later work, I haven’t had much good to say. But with the mischievously misleadingly titled Romance, and the laughter it elicited from and around me, there is no quarreling. This is vintage farce (and in farce, as in wine, old is good), with no holds barred and all foibles bared. The immediate target is our judicial system; a trial is in process, the story behind which we only very gradually learn. The characters are identified only by their status; otherwise, nearly all are nameless and, in some cases, shameless. The pill-popping judge, superlatively played by Larry Bryggman, is almost completely out of it; the defense attorney, brilliantly enacted by Christopher Evan Welch (that he looks like Al Gore doesn’t hurt), oozes moral grandeur; his opponent (ferrety Bob Balaban) is trying strenuously to prosecute with rigor while concealing a fraught relationship of his own that spills over into the courtroom. And the defendant is a genius at playing dumb. Suffice it to say that in a zany, foul-mouthed, and politically utterly incorrect way, the play gleefully lampoons lawyers and judges, Arabs and Jews, gays and chiropractors. Tidily directed by Neil Pepe, consummately acted by all, this pithy play manages to be in equal measure malicious and cathartic.

Romance
By David Mamet.
At the Atlantic Theater Company Through April 17.


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