The off-kilter farce opened March 1 to mixed reviews in the dailies. However, those notices were followed up this week with solidly positive appraisals in New York magazine and The New Yorker.
The oddly topical play is set in a courtroom in New York during a week when there are Middle East peace talks being brokered in town. The court case at hand is unrelated, but the defendant and counsel come up with a plan to solve the conflict in the region.
A pill-popping judge, a defendant and lawyer (on the same side) who hate each other, and a prosecutor with a troubled personal life are part of the picture.
The current cast will remain through the extension.
* "It's certainly the first out-and-out farce he's ever written," director Neil Pepe told Playbill.com. "He calls it a farce, and I think structurally and story-wise, it is a farce. I appreciate it because I think Mamet's an extremely underrated comic writer. You see so many wonderful shades of comedy in many of his other plays, and certainly in screenplays like 'State and Main,' 'Wag the Dog' and 'Things Change.' It's such a pleasure to be working on a straight comedy from him, because I think he's got such a wonderful and outrageous sense of humor."
In Romance, "there are elements that have echoed throughout many of his works that are pure Mamet — his wonderful, poetic, irreverent use of words," Pepe said. "But as a whole, structurally, I think it's very different, which I kind of love about it. I like that he constantly keeps you guessing, too. I never like to use the word 'style,' but you're never quite sure what's going on and it kind of keeps turning these odd corners which are always interesting and somewhat hilarious."
Is the play a critique of our justice system?
Pepe said, "It is kind of a wonderful thing that the play is saying: Those places — a courtroom, or the justice system — that we're supposed to look to to make sense of many things in society in some ways can be the root of more absurdity than any other place. He's looking at so many things that we hold to be black and white…the laws of society, whether it's being PC, whether it's dealing with the judicial system, whether it's dealing with the idea of fidelity, or how we view each other as different races and different religions. I kind of love that he says let's put it all on the table, let's tell the truth. That can either be painful or not very funny. In the case of this play, sometimes it's very funny and sometimes it's highly uncomfortable. I always love that about great comedies; I used to feel that way about Joe Orton's comedies as well.
Interest in the new comedy has been so high that two weeks were added to the run before its first performance began. ATC artistic director Neil Pepe directs the play, running at ATC's Chelsea neighborhood space to April 17.
Mamet founded the Manhattan company with actor William H. Macy more than 20 years ago (its roots are in classes the pair taught in the early '80s at NYU.) According to the company, "Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet returns to Atlantic with his new farce set in a modern day courtroom that explores issues ranging from our current judicial system to the Middle East conflict, fidelity and World peace."
The ensemble features Atlantic Theater Company members Larry Bryggman (Twelve Angry Men, two-time Tony Award nominee for Proof and Picnic), Steven Goldstein (Broadway's Our Town), Steven Hawley (Atlantic's Richard Cory) and guest artists Bob Balaban (produced and appeared in the Academy and Golden Globe Award winning film "Gosford Park"), Jim Frangione (Broadway's The Old Neighborhood), Keith Nobbs (Broadway's The Lion in Winter) and Christopher Evan Welch (Broadway's The Crucible).
Mamet's plays include Glengarry Glen Ross (Pulitzer Prize for Drama), The Cryptogram, The Water Engine, A Life in the Theatre, American Buffalo, Edmond, Lakeboat, Boston Marriage, Dr. Faustus, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Speed-the-Plow, The Old Neighborhood, Oleanna and more.