The term Boston Marriage was first used in the late 1800s by Henry James in his work The Bostonians. Generally, it was used to subtly refer to clandestine lesbian relationships. David Mamet’s play of the same name has only three characters: Anna, played by Maeve Doggett, Claire, played by Sylvia Robson, and Catherine the Maid, played by Clara Gonzalez.
The Lace Market Theatre is a small, intimate venue, perfect for a play with only one scene, that of Anna’s living room. Ms Doggett and Ms Robson fill the stage well, using every movement to advantage. The story centres around the two women’s relationship: Claire has been away, ‘following the Buffalo herd’ and Anna has been redecorating the house using a new protector’s money.
On her return, however, Claire informs Anna that she is in love with another young woman (age being a constant issue in their Spring-Winter romance). Not only is she in love, but she wishes to use Claire’s house for their clandestine meetings. It all goes pear shaped when the young woman’s father turns out to be Anna’s ‘protector’. From there, the women attempt various acts to win back their paramours, only to have them foiled when the other family moves away.
Like all of Mamet’s works, this play is rather cynical, humorous, subtly sexual and overtly critical of the elite. The women carry it off well, though Ms Doggett’s use of a strange sing-song tone the entire time on stage, like someone reading poetry badly, makes some of what she has to say difficult to understand and takes away at times from both the humour and the seriousness of what’s going on.
Ms Robson’s facial expressions are almost like having another character in the room, adding another layer to an already layered show. Ms Gonzalez has impeccable timing, and is the audience waits expectantly for her wit when she comes onstage.
This is a fun evening for anyone who enjoys a bit of jaded cynicism and sexual innuendo from their theatre.
Boston Marriage runs at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 23 June 2012