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Shows Worth Seeing:

A Life in the Theatre
By David Mamet
Gerald Schoenfeld Theater
236 W. 45th St.
Box office: (212) 279-4200


The two-hander A Life in the Theatre is one of David Mamet’s slighter dramas. A series of loosely connected vignettes describing the “frenemy” relationship between an older and a younger actor, the play does have some subtleties but it’s repetitious, a bit insular in its dependence on backstage humor, and it ends up feeling inconsequential. The key to maximizing its subtlety is to cast actors who can make its variety of flagrantly histrionic behaviors (onstage and off) seem like interesting social strategy, a form of sincere yet biting communication between professionals who understand each other all too well when they’re exaggerating, pontificating, and otherwise expressing the exact opposite of what they mean. The drama of this work—such as it is—has primarily to do with the shifting power relations between the actors as one’s career flourishes and the other starts feeling the decline of age. Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight are terrific at this dance of intentional and unintentional undermining, conscious and unconscious envy. Stewart’s cool command in the older role comes as no surprise, but that a TV darling like Knight actually possesses the chops to hold his own beside him is a palpable relief. The pith of Mamet’s tale is in tiny ambiguities concerning intention, which both the characters and the audience have fun noticing and decoding, and all those hinges work marvelously in this production directed by Neil Pepe. It is a puzzle why anyone thought such thin material merited a lavish Broadway production, but the show is smart, muscular and perceptive and does much credit to the performers.



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