Sunday, June 20, 2010


Hysterical, compelling ‘ROMANCE’ at None Too Fragile theatre company

David Mamet, the author of ‘ROMANCE,’ which is now being staged by None Too Fragile Theatre, is an American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and film director. He is known for his clever, terse, sometimes vulgar dialogue and exploration of masculinity.

Though ‘ROMANCE’ is billed as a comedy, and believe me it is funny, it is also an exploration of the American judicial system, and the world’s lack of ability to live in peace. It showcases the underlying hatred of people, even well-meaning ones, which comes out in times of high stress.

Though the audience is unaware of it, Mamet's style of writing dialogue gives clear messages to the director and actors of his scripts, on exactly how to interpret the lines. He illustrates his often edgy language with italics and quotation marks to highlight particular words. His style often finds characters interrupting each other and leaving ideas unfinished. Mamet has criticized writers, including himself, for “writing pretty at the expense of sound and logical plots.” He is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and several Tony nominations.

‘ROMANCE’ takes place in a courtroom. Present are a Jewish chiropractor, a Catholic defense lawyer, a fey prosecutor, a pill-popping judge, and a black bailiff. As a Middle-east Peace Conference convenes nearby, an ambiguous court case is side-tracked by domestic squabbles, ethnic slurs, and a hallucinating adjudicator. Chaos reigns as Mamet asks, “Why can't we all just get along?”

We are challenged to consider whether “Shakespeare was Jewish”, “Christ was a fag,” and whether “picking a gentile lawyer is like going to a straight hairdresser.”

The None Too Fragile Theatre, which is an outgrowth of the now defunct Bang and Clatter, presents another top-notch production. Director Sean Derry has selected a talented cast and has formed them into a cohesive whole. The cast, as well as the audience, leaves the play exhausted from the super-speed speaking and the physicality of the staging.

Jim Viront is hysterical as the pill-popping sexually perverted judge. The uptight prosecuting attorney, who is a closeted gay man living with a flamboyant boyfriend, is perfectly developed by Richard Worswick. Ryan McMullen is delightful as Bunny, the prosecuting attorney’s “wronged” lover who flounces around in bikini underwear and high-heeled shoes. Gabe Riazi , is on target as the Jewish defendant who, after concocting a ploy which his gentile lawyer won’t buy, states, “Why did you go to law school if you don’t want to lie?” Robert Samuel Grant III is fun as the light-fingered bailiff who plies the judge with drugs. Dane Lee is not quite believable as the defense attorney and Eric Wagner makes little of his cameo appearance as a doctor.

The 90-minute play, done without intermission, is hysterically funny, but also broaches many thought provoking topics.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Mamet’s ‘ROMANCE’ gets a great production at None Too Fragile Theatre. It’s worth the drive to Cuyahoga Falls to view this production.