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Loop Libido

Sexual Perversity in Chicago By David Mamet Directed by Stephen Drury At Currier House tonight

By David Frankel

THE NIGHT WHIZZES, spinning like the strobe globe at the disco where you loosen your hips, grinding to a song you swore you hated when the deejay played it four times during the hour you sat on the highway edging toward her house, which you couldn't find because her handwriting is horrendous compared to her typing, which she used to get the job as a secretary in the firm where you work, filing paper and talking it over with the guy in your office who says he knows how to handle chicks and seems to be telling the truth because he has made it everywhere, in cars, airplanes, Korea and Chicago, the big city by a lake where you live for the weekends when you can take a gal out for an evening, a good dinner, wine and music, and then go dancing before you drive her home, slip inside her door, mix drinks and plant yourself on the couch, waiting for her to drop her skirt, grab you by the collar and whisper what she loves about your body as her tongue traverses the length of your silk tie while you try the dials on her bra, fumbling and breathing heavy until the fantasies you had sitting in traffic seem like so many red lights on the road to ecstasy.

It is frightening how much David Mamet knows about this perverse mating dance, this conflict between the it and the ego. What, has he spent his life in sticky piano bars that draw only lost stewardesses, old mailmen and dead celebrities? His ear for dialogue, for real speech by people with sore kneecaps, cannot be matched. Likewise he has a delightful knack for truisms, the pithy revelations of small minds obsessed with sexual communication--intercourse, as it were.

Sexual Perversity is a string of these revelations, a blinking sequence of comic vignettes. The tiny lives of Danny Shapiro, Bernie Litko, Deborah Solomon and Joan Webber unfold like used cocktail napkins seeped in ritualized sexual juices at the bottom of a human sink. They go to single bars, they talk about sex as if it were running for president, they talk dirty in bed ("cum tastes like the junior prom...it smells like clorox but it tastes like the junior prom,") and they comment on the sexual revolution ("what do you think this is, the past?).

Richard Blumenfeld brings desperate life to his role as Bernie. Satanically chauvinist, he delights in finding new ways to explore tits and ass, and loves to talk about it as much as he loves to do it. Blumenfeld gives Bernie the energy of four scotch-and-waters, from his bulging veins-of-excitement in the first scene to his better tongue when he rails at Joan for refusing to buy his "just flew in from Miami" come-on line.

Daniel Mazur is delicately vulnerable as Danny, torn between his macho office-mate and his "woman" Deborah, played by Marianne Maguire. The scenes between the lovers are devastatingly honest, skittering along a humorous wire until the pair splits: "You're a lousy fuck," Deborah yelps, in tears. "You're lying," responds Danny, confused and hurt.

Off to one side stands Amy Benesch as Jean, a bitchy schoolmarm who can't hide her horniness or her contempt for men. A female chauvinist, Joan has less appeal than Bernie because she lacks a sense of humor about life in the sink. She exists as Deborah's lampshade, a taut mask on a bulb of sexual freedom.

Freedom from convention is the negligee to Mamet's play, slipped on under a suit of comedy but never fully revealed. Instead Bernie and Danny, Deborah and Joan remain caught in a sexual charade that is hopelessly--and hilariously--perverse.

THE MANDRAKE, a classical play of sexual intrigue, accompanies Perversity. Walter Hughes, Billy Ruane, Robert Rothery and Gerry Hail render Niccolo Machiavelli's 16th century script with unassuming simplicity and wit.

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