THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD by David Mamet, directed by John Gordon, with Wayne Ward, Danielle Brett, Rae Ellen Bodie, Marvin Hinz and Daniel Luff. Presented by East West Theatre at Artword Alternative (75 Portland). Runs to April 28, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $22-$27, Sunday pwyc. 416-366-7723. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
here's another you-can't-go-home-again play, made individual by the language and rhythms of ace American playwright David Mamet. Though The Old Neighborhood isn't first-rate Mamet, there's still enough tension in the writing and several performances to give a shine to the production.
After a failed marriage, Bobby Gould (Wayne Ward) returns to Chicago to visit family and friends, trying to pick up the pieces of a life he no longer understands. Director John Gordon trips in the first scene between Bobby and his friend Joey (Marvin Hinz) -- the rhythms aren't crisp enough -- but the two-hander picks up as Hinz's engaging, sympathetic performance develops.
In the final scene, Bobby and his former girlfriend, Deeny (Danielle Brett), engage in small talk but reveal the ebb and flow of sexual tension. Brett understands how to tease out insecurity and flirtation in equal, alternating doses. The middle scene -- Bobby sits at the kitchen table of his sister Jolly (Rae Ellen Bodie) and her husband, Carl (Daniel Luff) -- is the show's best.
Bodie's Jolly, who is anything but, seethes with a mass of angers and needs, unable to forgive her demanding mother and stepfather and desperate to find a shared warmth with her brother. Bodie's a marvellous, focused performer -- she hasn't done much locally except Ota -- and a talent to watch.
Everybody regrets what they have and haven't done, but Bobby voices that regret less than the others. That doesn't mean he doesn't feel the sadness, and the drawback of Ward's performance is that he fails to suggest a subtext that would make us feel for the character.