The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a cryptogram as “a communication in cipher or code.” For actor Jenny Young, it’s an apt way to describe the David Mamet play of the same name that she’s been rehearsing.
“We keep referring to the script as a cryptogram,” says Young, one of three actors in the Belfry’s production. The Cryptogram is set in 1959 and deals with a mother and son abandoned by the man of the house on the eve of a father-son camping trip.
“[Mamet] doesn’t let his characters really say what they’re meaning,” says Young, who plays the deserted wife, Donny. “They speak in very short sentences most of the time, so they’re always cutting each other off. You have to follow their train of thought.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Mamet is known for his particular punctuation and tricky scripts. “Anyone who knows anything about David Mamet knows you follow [his] script, just do what the script says and don’t add anything,” says Young.
Thrown into this heady mix is a pre-teen actor making his stage debut: Mitch H. Kummen, who played the young Don Cherry in CBC’s TV mini-series on the Canadian hockey commentator, is playing the son, John.
“He’s doing a great job,” says Young. “He’s a very, very smart kid, but as with any 11-year-old who’s that smart and that easy with adults, he also has so much going on in his head.”
Rounding out the three-hander is Vincent Gale as Del, a close family friend who attempts to comfort John and Donny in the wake of their abandonment. “They’re all just misunderstood and it’s really heartbreaking,” Young says of the characters. “They’ve created patterns in their life, because they’re lonely, that aren’t necessarily healthy.”
Young describes Donny as a product of her time who is trying to cope with societal restraints put on her post-marriage. “I think her and Del and her husband Robert all had an incredible life before the war,” she says. “She’s a very open and creative mind, but that freedom is being taken away from her.”
An interesting role to be taking on, given Young is currently pregnant with her first child. But acclaimed Canadian director, actor and writer Daniel MacIvor — who stepped in to direct the play after the tragic and sudden passing of Gina Wilkinson in December — is being careful to conceal the pregnancy during the play’s run.
“He’s very worried about people noticing the pregnancy. He doesn’t want the pregnancy to be seen because it adds a weight on the production that shouldn’t be there,” says Young.
Indeed, the script seems weighty enough as it is. M