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Donmar Warehouse: Previewed 8 March, Opened 16 March 2001, Closed 14 April 2001 transferred
New Ambassadors Theatre: Previewed 28 November, Opened 3 December 2001, Closed 16 February 2002
Play by David Mamet. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Designed by Peter McKintosh. Lighting by Rick Fisher. Music by Gary Yershon.
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A startling modern drawing room comedy set in the parlour of two 19th Century society ladies. Mamet gives an acute analysis of a female relationship: the repartee is fast and furious, his wit as biting as ever. Boston Marriage futher asserts his repuration as one of the world's greatest playwrights.
'Boston Marriage' is a 19th Century term used for households where two women lived together, independent of any male support.
Cast: Zoe Wanamaker, Anna Chancellor and Lyndsey Marshal.
David Mamet's plays include American Buffalo which was staged at the Donmar Warehouse in February 2000. His other work includes Glengarry Glen Ross and Oleanna both which where voted among the top 100 English language, twentieth-century 'significant' plays in a poll conducted in 1998 by The Royal National Theatre.
Zoe Wanamaker's previous credits include Electra at the Donmar Warehouse in 1997 for which she won the 1998 Olivier Award for 'Best Actress'. In 1998 she appeared in David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood which was staged by The Royal Court Theatre. Her last role in the West End was in 1999 when she starred in Battle Royal at the Lyttelton Theatre.
Anna Chancellor credits include The Real Inspector Hound and Black Comedy at the Comedy Theatre in 1998.
News about the show
On 5 July 2001: It is expected that this production, with the orginal cast, will transfer to the New Ambassadors Theatre from 3 December 2001.
On 5 September 2001: Full details of the transfer to the New Ambassadors Theatre was announced. All three original cast members will reprise their roles. The production will preview from 28 November, Opens on 3 December 2001 and close on 16 February 2002. Booking opens on 10 September 2001.
Extracts from the reviews:
From the New Ambassadors run:
"David Mamet's Boston Marriage has swept to the New Ambassadors from the Donmar Warehouse, with its nightmare-in-chintz set, camply convoluted plot and dialogue that sounds like the bastard offspring of Henry James and Noël Coward... The play's main problem is that its characters are armed with so many witticisms, it is impossible to penetrate the verbal weaponry to appreciate the true human beings. Even so, Zoe Wanamaker holds together the threads of the improbable plot with a laconic languor that allows you to enjoy her glittering facade, even if you never see her heart." The London Evening Standard
"...A Boston marriage was a 19th-century expression for two long-term female companions and in Mamet's play they are clearly lesbians. Anna (Wanamaker) has taken a rich lover to support her real lover Claire (Chancellor), but then see discovers Claire has fallen for the man's daughter. Ooh la la... At 90 minutes, the whole jokey charade soon exhausts itself. It's all so absurdly camp, you wonder why the director Phyllida Lloyd, didn't go the whole hog and cast Hinge and Bracket. If you want David Mamet at his crisp best, this isn't it..." The Express
"...Mamet is telling us what that euphemism "Boston marriage" really means. You thought it referred to maiden ladies platonically bonding for a tweedy eternity. For Mamet, it's more about manipulation and greed and the emotions you find in plays from American Buffalo to Glengarry Glen Ross. But most of the time those emotions come accoutred in verbal petticoats so thick and elaborate that you could lose a lacrosse team in them... Ninety minutes spent being sprayed with lines such as "Adversary Implacable, what does one not sacrifice upon the altar of your merciless caprice?" is at least 60 too many, even if they're intermittently interrupted by “kiss my ass” and other modernisms. Yet the two leads — plus Lyndsey Marshall, excellent as a put-upon maid — spray with energy and style. Chancellor is wayward, fickle Claire, Wanamaker game but sad Anna, a woman who, behind the exotic bluster, seems aware that time is passing, isolation a threat. They're terrific. The play isn't." The Times
From the Donmar Warehouse run:
"Boston Marriage is wonderfully funny. The Donmar Warehouse audience hangs open-mouthed on its bizarre inventiveness and on the twists of a plot that in many another playwright's hands would be cheerless farce... The play - exquisitely wrought - is as light, deadly, and unique as a cyanide sorbet confected by Escoffier... Anna Chancellor, unfortunately, is the campest actor in England. Line by line, as Clare, she is absolutely funny, but she is so knowing, so conscious of the effects she is making, that she renders her role - though not her words - predictable. Lyndsey Marshal, as the maid Catherine, is, by contrast, quite beguiling in her apparent innocence. And Zoë Wanamaker, as Anna, is bafflingly superb, bewitching in her ability to take us by surprise, seemingly quite unaware of the poses she is striking, the effects she is making, the cocoon of stylish cultivation and malice she has spun around herself. She sweeps impetuously through her long sentences, and her dastardly changes of plan, with the swagger and brio of Tetrazzini knocking off Coloratura in alt, and the play's dark heart gleams wickedly through her." The Financial Times
"...Mamet develops his plot with ingenuity and humour, and though this short play sometimes seems little more than a sketch, it proves surprisingly resonant. You're amused by these women but Mamet also makes you care about them... Phyllida Lloyd's production has exactly the right ironic, poised assurance, and the performances are terrific. Wanamaker, with her jolie laide face and beady currant eyes, poignantly captures the desperation of an ageing woman who will stop at almost nothing to hang on to her lover. As Claire, the statuesque Anna Chancellor powerfully signals a seething sexual desire beneath her prim skirts, while Lyndsey Marshal is a comic delight as the much-abused maid who is nothing like as innocent as she appears. Boston Marriage is an enjoyable and startling piece, and suggests that beneath his macho exterior, Mamet is in fact a bit of a ladies' man." The Daily Telegraph
"...Phyllida Lloyd's well-paced production, set in a chintz-covered drawing room, boasts three excellent performances. Zoe Wanamaker is brilliant as Anna precisely because she belongs convincingly to a world of whaleboned snobbery and crooked little fingers, and also one of emotional desperation. She handles the language with kid gloves while coming out with phrases such as "tell it to the marines". Anna Chancellor's Claire is also a hilarious mix of straight-backed social refinement and predatory lust and Lyndsey Marshal as the maid neatly blends naivete with a shrewd grasp of sexual power-play. All language, Mamet suggests, is a facade: his skill lies in exposing the painful reality under the fancy filigree phrases." The Guardian
"'Boston marriage' was the term in late-19th century America, for an intimate relationship between two women, usually bluestockings, possibly lesbians. In the same way, David Mamet's play has the form of a drama without the substance, talk instead of action... But Boston Marriage, with its hoity-toity dialogue, is not just effete, it's phony. Anna, a grande dame of 100 years ago, has not only conquered her hatred of chintz to please her paramour Claire, covering every domestic surface in cabbage roses; she has set aside her distaste for heterosexuality, submitting to a wealthy lover in order to keep the two of them in style. Anna is pretty peeved, therefore, to learn that Claire is infatuated with a young girl (whom we never meet), and that she has even invited her new friend round for tea. The situation may be unlikely; the dialogue is impossible... Zoe Wanamaker as Anna majestically rises above this unattractive nonsense; Anna Chancellor as Claire (not helped by director Phyllida Lloyd's physical gags that recall an inferior Bob Hope movie) sinks beneath it... this shotgun wedding of camp and crudeness seems more likely to appeal to fans of Larry Grayson than of Bea Lillie." The Independent