Friday, October 15, 2010

The Little Train that Shouldn't

Delicate is not a word often used to describe David Mamet.  Ever.  And yet, Tuesday night at the Schoenfeld Theatre, a revival of Mamet's 1977 play A Life in the Theatre opened in a production which Ben Brantley of The New York Times called "like a doily, a thin, lacy valentine to those who ply their trade on the stage."  Brantley goes on to say that, while the show was a smash hit as an off-Broadway show in the 1970's, it was probably never intended for a Broadway stage.  The production, which has a two man cast consisting of Patrick Stewart and T. R. Knight (of Grey's Anatomy fame) and a well-respected set design by Santo Loquasto, tries to look big to fit the Broadway stage it's currently playing, but the reviews I've read say that the show has never felt smaller.

The acting doesn't seem to help much either.  Although the play is full of Mamet's signature four letter vocabulary, neither of the actors seems fully comfortable in his role nor do they create fully formed characters.  The reviews noted that, while Patrick Stewart tends to do well with large-scale classical parts, small-scale comedy is not his strength.  T. R. Knight, who I'm guessing is more used to acting for television than he is for the stage, seems to have created a character that is too one-dimensional.  In addition to all this, the relationship between the two of them doesn't seem to change, according to Ben Brantley.  All said and done, this production comes across more like Michael Frayn's Noises Off than anything Mamet-esque.  

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