Probationary Theater is putting on “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” David Mamet’s 1970s comedy looking into the sex lives of men and women, this weekend.
“It launched his career in a lot of ways and made him famous for what we now know as David Mamet style ― that kind of staccato style of (going) back and forth very quickly,” said Desiree Munro, the play’s director.
As well as the author’s style of dialog, Munro has tried to keep the fashion and decor of the 1970s.
|Dominic Shifferl (left) and Stephen Glaspie appear in “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” ( Liam Mitchinson)|
“I have seen productions when it has been modernized and I think it does lose something because it is a commentary on sexual politics in 1976, so I like to keep it in the period.”
With detailed sets and costumes, the play’s 33 scene changes could pose a challenge. If badly handled they could disrupt the rhythm of the play and add significant length to the performance time, but Munro said she knew what to expect from having directed the play 10 years ago.
“It was the first play I ever directed, for the Melbourne Fringe Festival, and so I was aware of the pitfalls that a show like this can have if it’s not technically tight,” she explained.
For this performance, she has been working with the cast to choreograph the transitions, with actors moving or bringing on their own props and the stage split up into different settings, using lighting to highlight the right place for the scene.
“We’ve managed to make it really tight and interesting ― there’s not time on stage where it’s just black and there’s music playing while people shuffle into position. It’s very organic and natural and seamless, I think, which I’m very proud of.”
The areas are set up like a jigsaw puzzle, which Munro said was a theme she was aiming for. But the approach also brings the best out of the show’s humor.
“Everything in the show has to be very tight,” she said. “A lot of the comedy comes from just timing, you know, as these are really fast-paced scenes. That’s just the way he writes. So it was really important that we made this show as technically tight and as well rehearsed as possible.”
Munro had a longer rehearsal period for the Australian performance, but as well as experience, she has another advantage this time.
“Last time I had to use an Australian cast,” she said.
“I tried to make it as authentic as possible but we couldn’t get the accents right and there was a lot of cultural stuff that had to be researched and then explained, whereas this time I’ve got an all-American cast, and you know it is set in Chicago obviously.”
While the setting is clear from the name, Munro said the play itself was not as raunchy as some might think.
“It’s actually not as perverse as the title would suggest,” said Munro.
The company does a wide variety of plays, but recent performances were “Red Light Winter” and “Gaucho,” which both feature sex scenes. And for “Red Light Winter,” Munro even bared all.
Munro said she was glad she did it, even if she was not typically exhibitionist.
“It went really, really well,” she said. “I don’t think I would have done it for any other play. I’m not the sort of person who’s comfortable with things like that but I was really, really passionate about the script.”
“Perversity,” on the other hand, does not even have a kiss scene, and Munro says the main thing that might get pulses rising people is the sexism.
“This is one of the most tame things we’ve done recently, but I think maybe the title might put people off. It’s kind of like ‘Sex in the City’ in a sense. It’s people talking about gender politics and what it’s like to be single and things like that,” she said.
“They’re talking about the equal rights amendments that came about at that time and there’s one character that thinks it’s a waste of time.”
“Sexual Perversity in Chicago” will be performed at White Box Theater on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m., with an extra Sunday matinee performance at 4 p.m. All tickets are 15,000 won.
For directions to the theater, booking and more information, visit probationarytheatre.com/bookings.html.
By Paul Kerry (firstname.lastname@example.org