SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO
by David Mamet
Mon-Thu 8pm Fri 6.30pm & 9pm Sat 5pm & 8pm
Runs 1hr 20min No interval
TICKETS: 020 7369 1731
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 May
Everything you remembered about the seventies but were afraid to admit.Swift and sleek, it takes moments to notice how dated everything appears. Shining, trendy but from an attic. Except the play itself. The power of art. To be of, yet transcend, its time. Snap go Jeremy Herbert’s front-shutters, with vistas of Chicago by night and day, while the stage compartments in their various recessing degrees are wheeled around for the next brief scene.
Funny, nasty above all snappy. Zingily played. Hank Azaria’s Bernard don’t believe a word from him lusts and disgusts on his up and down testosterone big-dipper life. Minnie Driver’s Joan’s a cooler killer, poisoning by ill-prediction her friend Deborah’s new life with Danny.
Danny’s not like Bernard. It appears. No sooner together than he and Deb begin creaking as a couple, then cracking apart. It’s the little things that make loving a perfectly impossible relationship. When sex is the driving force.
Mamet captures (see the programme note) the generation who’d come to prosperous adulthood in the permissive sixties, without war memories or much-trouble from American Dreaming. Bolstered by tales from, or fighting in, Vietnam. A few years back from the first warnings about a new virus that came to be called HIV.
Reared on TV, these people catch the mind-flickering inattention of self-gratification. All the means to travel and no sense of where to go. Lindsay Posner magnifies the alienation each scene cut off from its neighbours, each location a void created just for the moment. Only the Royal Court normally impresses this way.
So, Sloane Square direction with U.S. TV casting (plus fine Britgirl Kelly Reilly). In a sense this is star-gawping: getting on for 50p a minute at top price whenever I’ve seen the play before it’s had a co-Mamet short alongside. But there’s a cue for returns, stuffed with young people.
Each actor earns their place on stage; maybe it’s not great acting (how often is it in the West End?). But it’s very good. Mamet’s as hard on his men as he seems on the woman in Oleanna. Amplified by the disconnections of Posner’s staging, we have a sex-hate tragedy to set beside Wedekind’s Lulu double.
Danny: Matthew Perry
Bernard: Hank Azaria
Joan: Minnie Driver
Deborah: Kelly Reilly
Director: Lindsay Posner
Designer: Jeremy Herbert
Lighting: Nigel Edwards
Sound: Matt McKenzie
Music: Terry Davies