Boston Marriage

Previewed 8 March 2001, Opened 16 March 2001, Closed 14 April 2001 at the Donmar Warehouse
Previewed 28 November 2001, Opened 3 December 2001, Closed 16 February 2002 at the Ambassadors Theatre

Phyllida Lloyd's West End Premiere of David Mamet's new play Boston Marriage in London starring Zoe Wanamaker and Anna Chancellor

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.

The cast features Zoe Wanamaker as 'Anna', Anna Chancellor as 'Claire' and Lyndsey Marshal as 'Catherine' who all reprise their roles from the Donmar Warehouse staging. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd with set by Peter McKintosh, costumes by Tom Rand, lighting by Rick Fisher and music by Gary Yershon. David Mamet's plays include The Cryptogram, American Buffalo, Speed-the-Plow, Sexual Perversity In Chicago, Oleanna, A Life in The Theatre and Glengarry Glen Ross. Zoe Wanamaker's West End credits include A R Gurney's comedy Sylvia at the Apollo Theatre in 1996.

"A Boston marriage was a 19th-century expression for two long-term female companions and in Mamet's play they are clearly lesbians. Anna has taken a rich lover to support her real lover Claire, but she then discovers Claire has fallen for the man's daughter. Ooh la la. All this is an excuse for an exercise in drawing-room banter in which both women sound as if they've swallowed several dictionaries plus the entire works of Henry James to boot - sexual passions bubbling away beneath their bodices and sentences that seem to go on forever. But since this is written by David Mamet, the master of modern male macho, all this formal lingo is interspersed with 'kiss my ass' modern slang. The homely interventions of a Scottish maid are very welcome but, 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 Daily Express

"The best things about David Mamet's 80-minute play are Phyllida Lloyd's coolly ironical production and the diamond-edged acting. Zoe Wanamaker and Anna Chancellor are two ladies in late-19th-century New England, held together by an overheated but probably platonic affection. Wanamaker is the lethal pussycat whose purr would make you either go weak at the knees or run for your life; Chancellor is the regal eagle, poised to pounce while cultivating an air of dizzy detachment... The writing is all tongue-in-cheek ornate respectability: it could be Joe Orton parodying Edith Wharton, punctuating the formal exchanges with louche wisecracks and the odd completely incongruous obscenity, as if to reassure you that every silver cloud has a dirty lining." The Sunday Times

"A 'Boston Marriage' is a euphemism for 'a long-term monogamous relationship between two women'. However, here Zoe Wanamaker's Anna is also a kept woman, courtesy of a rich man, and Claire (Anna Chancellor) has lost her heart to a much younger woman whom she wants to bring home and seduce. Jealous Anna submits on condition that she can observe the seduction through a hole in the wall. When the women discover that the young girl is the daughter of Anna's lover, a Feydeau-like farce ensues. Imagine David Mamet's fast and filthy dialogue and macho posturing translated into more refined, restrained 19th Century drawing-room conversation between two erstwhile female lovers. What you get is this: 'One must keep a civil tongue in one's mouth. It need not be one's own.' Or 'I've lost my most precious possession.' 'Your rapier wit?' The sniping, scabrous and scatological urges that boil beneath the veneer of civility and propriety erupt like blisters. As does the violence. Anna has a particularly amusing line in servant abuse. 'Oh, bite through your wrists and die,' she tells the maid, whose name she deliberately forgets. As schoolboy humour goes, Boston Marriage is occasionally very funny and the final twist is a neat one, but the piece is ultimately no more than an exercise in pastiche." The Mail on Sunday

Boston Marriage in London at the Donmar Warehouse previewed from 8 March 2001, opened on 16 March 2001 and closed on 14 April 2001, transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 28 November 2001, opened on 3 December 2001 and closed on 16 February 2002