- Photo courtesy of Suellen Fitzsimmons
- From left to right: Mark Ulrich, Andrew Swackhamer, David Whalen, Patrick Jordan, John E. Reilly, Kevin Brown and Matt DeCaro in Kinetic Theatre's Romance
David Mamet is not known for his delicacy, and Romance, a farce bordering on self-parody, reaches spectacular degrees of offensiveness. Andrew Paul, producing artistic director of newly minted Kinetic Theatre Co., expresses surprise that his production of the 2005 comedy is a Pittsburgh premiere, i.e., that it has taken so long for a Mamet play to hit town.
It's not difficult to figure out reasons for possible reluctance: the usual and unusual jokes about Jews, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, LGBT folks, lawyers, doctors, race relations, etc. Romance is supposed to be a sex farce, so the plot is irrelevant but subject to spoilage with too much revelation. You just need to know that a courtroom trial goes awry because of the judge's hay-fever medication, and that there is a Middle East peace conference in town. Hilarity ensues.
Theatrically speaking, there's a lot going on with multiple loci of interest, overlapping dialogue and general outrageousness. Director Paul and his seven-man (yes, all men) cast are up to the challenges, complemented by a solid (and mostly female, hmmm) design/production team.
Patrick Jordan and David Whalen, as the defendant and his counsel, take bickering to new heights (literally if not metaphorically over the head of Kevin Brown as the most sensible guy in the story) and deliver new lows of anti-Semitism. Matt DeCaro controls the judge's personality shifts, with Mark Ulrich as the hapless prosecutor and John E. Reilly as the hopeless doctor.
Even with all these heavy hitters, youngster Andrew Swackhamer threatens to steal the show, or at least chew the most scenery (courtesy of Gianni Downs, especially the wonderfully dreadful living room). Julianne D'Errico has a great eye for the clothes to make the men. Technical director Diane Melchitzsky also handles props and a portentous New York state seal. Elizabeth Atkinson provides the sounds of the city.
The expertly played and paced Romance is funny, mostly in that puerile sense of humor that finds giggles in every naughty word. Still, it is Mamet, who can build such absurdly constructed insults that they force out the laughs. Not for the sensitive or the whole family.