Mamet tackles women and wordplay in Whitehorse

Ever heard of a "Byzantine rodomontade"? Neither had Stephen Drover. The director of the Guild's upcoming production, Boston Marriage, is used to working with "dense classical text," and specializes in Shakespeare.

Ever heard of a “Byzantine rodomontade”?

Neither had Stephen Drover.

The director of the Guild’s upcoming production, Boston Marriage, is used to working with “dense classical text,” and specializes in Shakespeare.

But David Mamet’s Boston Marriage is a completely different beast.

“I agreed to come direct the play before reading the script,” said Drover.

“After reading it, I recognized it would be a challenge.”

Full of word play and sesquipedalianisms (big words), the script is reminiscent of Shakespeare, but without the metre and rhythm, which makes it tricky.

“It’s kind of a Franken-hybrid,” said Drover.

“And it’s hard to place it in a contemporary lens, because they don’t speak like we do.”

The characters have “a delicious use of words,” he said.

“Anyone who likes language and wordplay will delight in it.”

Good use of language is “a muscle that has atrophied in our society,” with LOL and OMG replacing words like rodomontade, said Drover.

Mamet’s skill as a playwright allows him to tap into the audiences instincts, “so even if you don’t know what a word means, you know what it means,” he said.

“There is a shared humour in the communal understanding of something we didn’t think we understood.”

Drover worked on plenty of Mamet in grad school.

But Boston Marriage is unique.

Mamet is known for writing macho male plays.

“He’s been called misogynist, sexist and been accused of not being able to write for women,” said Drover. “Usually the women in his plays only act as props for the male’s journey.”

Boston Marriage turns all these preconceptions on their head.

Not only is it written exclusively for women, but Mamet paints a very disparaging portrait of men.

“The only thing a man is good for is choking a horse,” says one of the women in the script.

“Men live to be deceived,” says another.

“It’s very unusual for Mamet’s pen,” said Drover.

“It’s both entertaining and a bit provoking.”

Had Boston Marriage been written by a feminist, it might be seen as anger, he said. “But because it was written by Mamet, I wonder if this gives it more latitude.”

Billed as a bawdy, corset-popping, verbal roller-coaster, the parlour comedy tackles raunchy subject matter with tact.

“The characters walk the line of being prudes who are still able to articulate bawdy thoughts without using words like ‘sex,’” said Drover.

Instead of talking about “a quickie,” for example, they refer to “a vile assignation.”

Set in 1900, the production features two scheming women of fashion and a hapless, not-so-innocent maid, caught up in a succulent, sensuous world.

First and foremost, it’s entertaining, said Drover.

But good art has to walk two paths.

Entertainment comes first, “or you don’t stay,” he said. “But it also needs to be challenging.”

Popular TV shows, like Two and A Half Men, “don’t really force you to lean forward and work,” said Drover.

But when you’ve contributed and been challenged, you become invested, he said.

“Good art should meet you half way, and not make you work too hard,” he added.

Drover made his Whitehorse directing debut with the Guild’s production of Laughter on the 21st Floor, in 2007. And it’s amazing he found time to return.

Drover runs his own theatre company in Vancouver, is the artist in residence for another company and is the production manager for a third company.

While here, he’s also producing another project in Vancouver and starts rehearsals for a new production in the city the day after Boston Marriage opens.

But Drover hasn’t always lived and breathed theatre.

“I came into it late and very irresponsibly,” he said.

As a pre-med student, he was convinced by a friend during a very drunken evening to take theatre as an elective.

Now Drover delivers well-crafted productions instead of babies.

“Theatre chose me,” he said.

Boston Marriage opens Wednesday, November 16 and runs until December 3 at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek. There’s a $5 preview on Tuesday, November 15, and a pay-what-you-can performance on Wednesday, November 23.

The production is also touring to Dawson City for a special presentation at the Odd Fellows Hall on Monday, November 28.

All shows are at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at Whitehorse Motors and at the door. Contact 633-3550 for more information.

Audience members are encouraged to don top hats, tails, tiaras and pearls for a night out on the town.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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