Two Unrelated Plays by David Mamet @ Atlantic Theater Company @ Linda Gross Theater, New York

cast list
Jeffrey Addiss, Michael Cassidy, Steven Hawley, J.J. Johnston, Jordan Lage, Rod McLachlan, Brian Murray, Jon Pankow, Jonathan Rossetti, Jack Wallace, Todd Weeks

directed by
Neil Pepe
Those familiar with the plays of master playwright David Mamet will likely be surprised by the levity on display in his latest double-bill, currently playing at the Atlantic Theater, which he co-founded. Two Unrelated Plays by David Mamet, a short and snappy evening consisting of School and the ancient Greece-set Keep Your Pantheon serves as a worthy diversion, for sure, but lacks the bite of much of Mamet’s more significant work.

Addressing themes of education with a lighter touch than in the heavy-hitting Oleanna (soon to be revived on Broadway), Mamet uses School to expound on issues of the environment and our everyday impact on its deterioration, depicting an argument between two men (named, in the program, simply A and B) over the use of recycled paper in the production of posters at a school.
Concise and hysterical, School is the most Mamet-like of the two plays, full of snappy dialogue that cuts straight to the point at hand. Running a little over fifteen minutes, it’s this play, nonetheless, that would most benefit from expansion, allowing the rather compact situation at hand to be developed more fully as the implications at hand complicate.

Keep Your Pantheon, the second and longer play of the evening, is consistently amusing but somewhat more thematically slight. Following an acting troupe in ancient Greece, and, in particular, the lustful desire of aging actor Strabo (the excellent Brian Murray) for ditzy actor-in-training Philius (Michael Cassidy in a rather revealing toga), the play seems more a gag reel than a fully-formed play.

It’s easy to appreciate Mamet’s desire to strike out into new territory, manipulating Greek themes to expound on modern problems, but what’s on display in Keep Your Pantheon is too fleeting, serving as a momentary comic diversion but little else, punctuated by too many rimshot-style moments and too few deeply-felt jokes.

With Mamet at the helm – and with smart direction from Neil Pepe – there’s no denying that the material is smart throughout and never boring, more than can be said of the minor works of some other major playwrights.

Ultimately, however, though there’s plenty of witty repartee throughout, the here-one-minute-gone-the-next School only serves to highlight the potential for barbarous wit that’s lacking in Pantheon and in these two unrelated plays as a whole.

Clocking in at an hour and a quarter, the evening is frothy and fun but mostly insubstantial, representing two minor works from a great writer and leaving an audience’s appetite duly whet for Mamet’s forthcoming new play, Race which opens on Broadway this winter.

No related posts found...