A Walk on the Seedy Side: Review of Two Peas’ Edmond
So we all know David Mamet is something of a big deal. Whether we actually enjoy his work is another story. But what of this play in particular, Edmond (1982), which independent company Two Peas is currently mounting at the Old505?
The story of Edmond is told through twenty three short scenes. After a fortune teller informs him that he ‘isn’t where he’s supposed to be’, Edmond leaves his wife and starts out on a journey through the seedy underworld of New York. The first half of the play charts Edmond’s search for sex. He is largely unsuccessful. He is taken advantage of by conmen and pimps at every turn and becomes increasingly unhinged until he eventually commits murder. Unsurprisingly he ends up in gaol, which isn’t exactly a boon for his prospects.
So what’s the point? Well, the piece seems largely interested in issues of destiny and free will. Edmond is told that he doesn’t belong at the start of the play and so he makes a break in an attempt to find himself. At every turn, though, Edmond’s efforts are frustrated by the people he comes into contact with. He lands in prison, but is this because of his own doing or is he the victim of forces beyond his control? These may sound like interesting talking points, but unfortunately this piece spends so much time stuck up its own back side that even the most skilled gastroenterologist would be unable to dislodge it. Mamet seems to think he’s giving us something profound, but it comes off as pretentious and shallow. The quick fire scenes play more like a workshop and the characterization and story arch for Edmond is so thin that it leaves us unfeeling for the predicament he finds himself in. No doubt Two Peas selected this piece for the challenge it offered of having four actors playing twenty seven characters. If this was indeed their intention, they at least managed to pull it off with some success.
Our protagonist, Edmond Burke, a sheltered white-collar worker in New York City, is dutifully played by Oleg Pupovac – one half of Two Peas. Pupovac brings quiet reason to the role, whilst navigating the emotionally rocky terrain of Edmond’s experiences. In doing so, Pupovac (impressively) makes sense of Edmond’s long philosophical ramblings, many of which detract from the general impression this character makes on the audience. It is hard to care about Edmond, beyond his deep desire for something more poignant. This is inherently a writing flaw, not a performance one. This is similarly the case for Two Peas other half, Tara Clark (here in multiple roles). Clark is always compelling; she has amazing clarity on stage which lends to a natural command of all the roles she plays. Both Cheyne Fynn and Naomi Livingstone also did exceptionally well, given the number of ‘short-lived’ characters each had to play. Both Fynn and Livingstone have an ear for comedy and played out occasional dramatic moments when the script gave them the chance. Livingstone is particularly watchable and fluid in her roles, and Fynn possessed a natural gravitas, lending a much needed heavy weight to the show. Overall, the actors were only hampered by the writing. The performances in and of themselves, were of a high standard.
Director Glen Hamilton has put together a simple, yet practical set. The space is littered with coloured moveable cubes, lit up by the actors as they shift in and out of their scenes. The light also throws itself onto the two white curtain wings on either side of the stage, making for a highly malleable and atmospheric theatrical arena. The actors largely managed the transitions, which blunted the potential for static and constant scene changes.
A more dramatically satisfying play may have been preferable for Two Peas’ adventure into the multi-character challenge, but Edmond is thankfully short at only an hour, the performances are topnotch and you certainly won’t get bored watching it.
Edmond is playing at the Old505 Theatre until the 26th of July. For more information see: http://www.thetwopeas.com/#!up-next/c1pa3