As one of the two marquee productions anchoring the Goodman’s David Mamet Festival, “Romance” was an obvious choice. It is his most recent play (it debuted in New York last year), and it hasn’t been seen in Chicago—two good arguments, I suppose, for staging it. These reasons, though, don’t hold up. This is dashed-off Mamet, a faux courtroom farce that is faux funny and faux offensive. If the guy’s name weren’t on the script, you’d think it was faux Mamet. A man stands trial accused of something relating to Hawaii and a leatherbound date planner, while opposing counsel, apropos of nothing, finds himself in the midst of a gayer-than-gay lovers’ quarrel with his buff-and-pretty boyfriend. Meanwhile, the judge is popping pills like they’re M&Ms, and outside the courthouse a Mideast peace rally toils in pointlessness. Though the script bears the trademarks of Mamet’s writerly melodies and in-your-faceness, the piece as a whole never gains any traction beyond its oblique point about eggshell-walking that passes for discourse today. The strongest and funniest scene comes early on, when the defendant (David Pasquesi, whose angular precision and hostility manages to be enormously entertaining despite the odds) trades outrageous, vitriolic race-and-religion epithets with his attorney. It’s a doozy, but as directed by Pam MacKinnon, the production has a hiccupping rhythm overall—lurching back and forth from warp speed to something akin to a dying battery. This just might be the slowest ninety-minutes in town. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.