The Romance of Rehearsal

There are two different farces going on at Zero Church Street: David Mamet’s Romance, and the zany process of actually trying to rehearse it. This group of company members and students could make me laugh at the phone book. But Romance has an unbelievable amount of shtick per page. There’s a seemingly endless stream of material for us to mine.

Right now, we’re spending most of our time decoding Mamet’s text. The dialogue of Romance is an incredibly intricate road map of pauses, periods, and commas. The process can be tiring, but the resulting dialogue is lively, dense, and worth the effort. Today, we spent three hours on just one section of one scene. Tommy Derrah, fresh off our production of Endgame, remarked that “this stuff is harder to crack than Beckett.” Fellow Endgamers Will LeBow and Remo Airaldi chuckled in agreement.

What constantly impresses me as I watch Scott Zigler and the cast tackle the text is the sheer ambition of Mamet’s dramaturgy. Most contemporary playwrights focus on two or three person dialogue. Mamet’s own most famous hits (Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo) revolve around two-handed scenes. But for Romance’s courtroom scenes, which make up most the text, Mamet keeps five to seven characters fully engaged in the action at all times. Continuously developing this entire cast of characters is a huge feat, and unpacking these rich scenes is keeping us plenty busy.

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