Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Shawl"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark

"The Shawl"

by David Mamet
Directed by Lilia Levitina

Set and Costume Design by Valentina Komolova
Lighting Design by Nadine Rozenoer, Igor Shekhtman
Music Arranged by Emily Romm
Sound by Lina Reznikov, Sasha Lebedeva

John..............Will Cabell
Miss A. ...Dassia Posner
Charles.......Paul Barrett

David Mamet would probably hate this production of his short slice-of-charlatanism play. Rather than just saying the lines as the playwright set them down, Director Lilia Levitina has asked her cast to illuminate them --- with actions instead of pauses. She has illustrated the inner thoughts of people with dances and thrown furniture, props like a little illuminated house and a caged parrot, and music that not only sets the tone but, at one point, makes a long monologue almost inaudible. "The Shawl" in their hands becomes a whole new, fascinating play.

Mamet's five-scene script takes little more than an hour, and centers on the work of a "reader and adviser"(Will Cabell) who has blown a small rapport with the spirit-world into a scam. He's seen first talking to a new client (Dassia Posner) who while unsure of his gifts nonetheless hopes he can solve her problem through advice from her dead mother. Then in the very next scene Mamet has him gleefully expose all of the medium's techniques for forcing the client to give him all he needs to seem genuine. Here he is instructing a pupil (Paul Barrett) in his "art" --- and though the young man is most interested in the quick-buck rather than the art involved, his teacher keeps him on out of a homosexual attraction.

For this production, Miss A the client appears in dress and makeup as an ingenuous kewpie-doll, falling joyously for the medium's every clue and suggestion, wafted into swaying as she is manipulated as easily as a puppet. When in the third scene the medium attempts a trance, it is kneeling on a table surrounded by a metal cot set on its side. When the medium sends his venal pupil packing the younger man opens the cage and slips the parrot into his pocket, underscoring the mutual love he takes from the older man's life. These added details hold a surreal fascination and illuminate the text. Mamet may not be pleased, but the audience will be by this Basement on The Hill Stage production.

And now that her company has come out of their basement and down off their hill, let's hope that Lilia Levitina and company will focus their originality of insight on many "new" old plays!


"The Shawl" (24 January - 9 February)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1(617) 426-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide