Article from Pioneer Press newspapers
September 8, 2005
Vex juxtaposes Mamet men, women
The Vex Theatre Company unleashes a double dose of David Mamet with dueling productions of "American Buffalo" and "Boston Marriage" next week at Cutting Hall in Palatine.
Running September 15 to 18, the second production staged by the non-profit professional theatre company offers a veritable battle of the sexes with each play featuring a trio of characters engaged in improving their lot in life by any means necessary.
So, why Mamet and why two Mamet plays at once?
"Because we are ridiculously bold and ambitious beyond our own good, " said co-founder Cathleen Ann of Palatine, who serves as the company's managing director and publicist in addition to being one of its actors.
"When we saw the parallels between the two shows with the three men in one and the three women in the other, the themes of scrounging to get ahead kind of resounded and we had to do them both."
"American Buffalo," first staged in 1977, presents a cluttered Chicago junk shop as the staging zone for criminal enterprise while "Boston Marriage," first staged in 1999, takes place in the genteel drawing room of a 19th-century lesbian couple with plenty of schemes of their own.
"We wanted to do 'Boston Marriage' first, so we thought offering the more popular Mamet would get people in to see the lesser known Mamet," Ann said.
"Even though the settings are quite different, we liked the dichotomy of having a man's play and a woman's play by the same playwright."
Ann saw a production of "Boston Marriage" in Iowa City about a year ago and was immediately taken with the possibilities of staging it in the Chicago suburbs.
"Being a woman I am always on the lookout for a play that has good roles for women," she said. "It was a witty, fabulously written, dark comedy about three bold characters."
Ann admits to being somewhat amazed that the delicately phrased dialog found in this Victorian era comedy was penned by David Mamet.
"There is not the usual cussing and violence (often found in Mamet's plays) but it does have a little bit of darkness that keeps it kind
of modern amid all this Oscar Wilde-like wordplay."
Ann, who plays the role of the conniving Anna in "Boston Marriage," said the title term developed around the Victorian age to describe women who did not necessarily have a sexual relationship but do live together and support each other without a man in the house.
"Anna uses rich men in order to get money from them, which she then shares with her partner Claire," she said. "The third character is our very hapless Scottish maid Katherine, who is having her own romantic difficulties -- with a man."
Incorporated in 2004, Vex staged their first production, "The Designated Mourner" by Wallace Shawn, in June of this year at a theatre space in Naperville. The debut cast included Ann, co-founder Rich Geiger of Palatine and Daniel J. Dudych of Des Plaines.
"We are trying to bring the more intimate black box style of Chicago theatre into the suburbs by doing smaller, stripped down productions of works that don't get produced as often," Ann said. "Instead of doing your tried and true romantic comedies from the 1940s or your lavish Broadway musicals we want to do your Mamets, your Pinters and your Shawns."
Vex is the first theatre company to be founded by Ann and Geiger, a couple who met in a philosophy class at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago fifteen years ago.
In "American Buffalo," Geiger, the Vex artistic director and set designer, will play the junk shop owner Donny with Dudych cast as the would-be criminal mastermind Teach and Joseph Bianco of Elk Grove Village as the kid Bobby.
Ann describes the set of "American Buffalo," which is directed by Merle Weddle of Hanover Park, as "having enough to suggest a room without building one."
"So we will have shelves, a display case, a poker table. There will be plenty of objects to suggest a junk shop but we won't we building three walls and working doorways."
Directed by Julie Koerner of Northbrook, "Boston Marriage" also will feature Holly Fishburn of Palatine as Claire and Ashley Stricker of Arlington Heights as the maid Catherine.
"For that play we will have a nice velvet settee, a writing desk, a table for the tea, a fireplace with a painting suspended over it and various hangings of chintz," she said. "We will be in Victorian costume but these are still very earthy women.
"Despite their good diction and multi-syllabic words, they throw in some really good digs."
'American Buffalo' and 'Boston Marriage'
Sept. 15 to 18, varying times daily
Cutting Hall, 150 E. Wood St., Palatine.
Single tickets are $15; tickets for both plays on the same day are $25