Playwright David Mamet is an equal opportunity offender in his enigmatically titled Romance presented by Vancouver’s Queer Arts Society.
“No question, Mamet goes for the jugular,” says the show’s director Adam Henderson. “Romance is the opposite of political correctness, all done with great humour.”
Looking for something other than sketch comedy, which Henderson says is in no short supply at any Fringe, he knew he had a winner in Romance.
“I realized that no one else was going to give me the opportunity to do a show like this and it is a perfect fit for something like the Fringe,” says Henderson who originally received the controversial script as a Christmas present from what he calls his “super cool” parents.
Described as a madcap comedy, while Romance takes place in a courtroom, the audience is never given an explanation as to what the case is about. Instead, Mamet uses it as a simple backdrop for racist and expletive driven antics that include a judge whose allergy medications wreak havoc, a gay prosecutor that has relationship problems and an Episcopalian attorney who trades racial slurs with his Jewish client: “God forgive me, what have I done? I hired a goy lawyer! It’s the same as going to a straight hairdresser … you fucking asshole. You brain dead, white socks, country club, plaid pants, Campbell’s fucking sheigetz goy.”
Despite pushing the limits at every page turn of his script, director Henderson sees the power Mamet’s inappropriate humour can have on an audience.
“The world is increasingly full of prejudice,” he explains. “As we lose one [prejudice], others arise and it is important that we recognize that by refusing to say the words we haven’t changed the attitudes.”
“Humour is an amazing tool to help break down prejudice,” says Queer Arts Society producer David C. Jones, who will also appear in the play as The Prosecutor. “But Mamet is much cleverer than just a bunch of racist words.”
To illustrate, Jones points to the gay love story that plays out among the bedlam and from where he likes to think Mamet gets his title.
“At the center of all the crazy chaos, there is this volatile inter-generational gay love story which asks the question: how can we find world peace if we can’t find it at home?”.
(A version of this article first appeared in the August 23, 2012 edition of Xtra!)
Part of the 2012 Vancouver International Fringe Festival
CBC Studio, 700 Hamilton Street
7 – 15 September 2012
Visit http://www.vancouverfringe.com for exact showtimes and tickets.