Mamet, Decoded Pause … and consider The Cryptogram

In talking to actor Jenny Young days before The Cryptogram opened, she said director Daniel MacIvor described the work as “a play that you feel.” Judging by the reaction from the audience opening night — there were plenty of gasps and observations in the crowd — it’s safe to say people were indeed getting emotionally involved in David Mamet’s brief play about loneliness, restraints of 1950s society, the disintegration of a family and a child’s loss of innocence.

In talking to actor Jenny Young days before The Cryptogram opened, she said director Daniel MacIvor described the work as “a play that you feel.” Judging by the reaction from the audience opening night — there were plenty of gasps and observations in the crowd — it’s safe to say people were indeed getting emotionally involved in David Mamet’s brief play about loneliness, restraints of 1950s society, the disintegration of a family and a child’s loss of innocence.

Plot-wise, not much happens in The Cryptogram. Set in 1959, the play opens with 10-year-old John (Mitch H. Kummen) up past bedtime, waiting for his dad to come home. Mom Donny (Young), exhausted and near the end of her rope, is urging her anxious son to get to bed to rest up for the camping trip he’s supposed to go on with his father. We then meet Del (Vincent Gale), a longtime family friend who is always eager to engage the young John in discussions he hopes will make him wise to the ways of the world.

We soon learn that dad isn’t coming home — and that Del has betrayed this family he claims to love. Soon, the relationships between this on-stage trio strain, then fall apart completely.

Mamet’s jilted, abrupt dialogue takes some getting used to and even grates at times, but sticking through the first act pays off in the play’s powerful climax. In some ways, the play feels almost farcical and Shakespearean at points; everyone is talking (and sometimes yelling), but no one is listening to each other. All three performers do a great job with the difficult script, particularly the young Kummen; and Young’s complete breakdown at the end of the show is believable as it is tragic.

Lorenzo Savoini’s set is as isolated as the characters themselves; a simple ’50s-era living room floats in the centre of the stage, an exaggerated staircase ascending from it; this is where John spends most of the play, observing household happenings from above. In a nice touch, director MacIvor has his characters occasionally disappear, attempting to communicate with each other from places unseen.

This is definitely not an offering for everyone — some will find the stilted dialogue difficult to get into, or the characters hard to sympathize with — but fans of Mamet’s explorations of the darker side of societal constructs will enjoy.

Just Posted

Still making a good impression: Andre-Philippe Gagnon and his cast of thousands take over Sidney

French-Canadian vocal impressionist first hit it big mimicking every singer from ‘We Are the World’

Powerfully Piaf: Musical tells chanteuse’s life story

Multimedia French cabaret show March 20 at the Royal Theatre part of a worldwide tour

CRAFT BEER COUNTDOWN: Victoria Beer Week 2019 nearly upon us

Monday beer columnist Mathieu Poirier revels in this learning and tasting extravaganza

REVIEW: Trojan Women a brilliant downer at the Phoenix

UVic theatre program does a good job interpreting Greek tragedy, wrtes Sheila Martindale

Emerging Sooke filmmaker takes spotlight with special award

Mary Galloway creates her own opportunities

What is Democracy? takes another crack at Sooke

Awareness Film Night feature set for Feb. 28

Chanel: Iconic couturier Karl Lagerfeld has died

He spent virtually his entire career at luxury labels catering to the very wealthy

Seedy Saturday blossoms at Victoria Conference Centre this weekend

Speakers cover wide range of topics, including how to utilize small spaces for gardening

Port Alberni production tells real stories of casual racism

Divided We Fall coming to ADSS and the Capitol Theatre

Most Read