“Edmond” by prolific and gritty playwright David Mamet speaks volumes about the human condition, as most of his works do. It’s a fitting choice for a season dubbed “Play in the Dark.”
Yet, despite the darkness of the piece, director Levi Fackrell deftly manages to find the humor buried in the script. Regardless of the queasiness in the pit of the stomach when we’re presented with some of the foibles of the title character, we laugh.
You see, Edmond Burke (Joe Basso) is a mild-mannered, naïve, and kind man, who, at the 37, suddenly realizes he’s no longer a happy camper. When his wife (Sarah Spraker) stands at a mirror, slathering herself with moisturizer, whining about a broken lamp that must be replaced, Edmond stands and quietly says, “OK. I’m going. I’m not coming back.”
He leaves the house, leaves his marriage, and, unwittingly, thanks to a patron at the first bar he stops into, leaves his life.
The various characters we would all meet in society if we found ourselves in the seediest parts of a large city are portrayed by a talented ensemble cast, each taking on multiple roles. They are the dark underbelly, those who take gleeful advantage of the weak.
Basso easily draws us in from the start with his portrayal of the dead-inside man. We see the struggle as each pitfall betrays his ability to cope, to remain a sensible and caring man. It’s no easy task with a script that jumps quickly from scene to scene. When he finally snaps, the change is immediate in body and tone. It’s only when the full realization of his mistakes comes crashing down, that Basso misses a beat. He doesn’t allow himself to fall deep enough into regret and despair. Yet, in the final scene, he nails the conclusion: No matter how we claw at life, “There’s a destiny that shapes our end.”
Spraker gives an even performance in her two scenes. She’s properly incensed by the revelation of her broken marriage and stoic in her determination not to fall for her husband’s mea culpas.
Tressa Bern, Myles Morgan, Jamie Carvelli and Alex Pink are standouts among the ensemble cast, fully embodying various characters with distinct vocal phrasing, dialect and attitude in movement. Scott McAdam brings a perfect sense of indignity and injustice to the Man in a Bar.
With gray boxes, table and chairs, stools and one wagon piece doing double duty, Scott Fadale’s set takes us rapidly along the journey. He and Fackrell make excellent use of the entire space. Props, costumes, and lighting all add to the overall sense of place and time.
There’s no such thing as a throw-away line in a Mamet script; he’s meticulous in his language. While the sound design of Adam Kozlowski brings an atmospheric beauty to the story, at times volume overpowers dialogue.
As with most Mamet plays, this production is filled with violence, sex, extreme language and themes. Its realism is not recommended for the young, or the faint of heart.