With all eyes on London for Will and Kate this week, the folks at Hudson Stage have a marriage of another sort in mind.
Mamet, whose dialogue won’t see print in a family newspaper — or a family newspaper’s blog, for that matter — made his name with plays such as “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “American Buffalo,” works brimming with salty, visceral, take-no-prisoners language for men.
But “Boston Marriage” is written for three women, played by Andrea Cirie, Amanda Duffy and Claire Neumann.
Set in a drawing room just before the turn of the 20th century, “Boston Marriage” is a period piece, a novelty for Hudson Stage, which has built its audience presenting first-rate contemporary plays in a converted Pace University lecture hall.
A “Boston marriage” is an arrangement where two women live together in a relationship that may or may not include a sexual component.
In Mamet’s “Marriage,” the air teems with sexual tension as Anna (Cirie) and Claire (Duffy) — two women of fashion — face crises of their own making.
Neumann plays the maid, a frequent target of their scorn.
Witty banter, judgements and accusations fly in Mamet’s signature rat-a-tat, complete with profanity.
Yes, Mamet’s women swear just like Mamet’s men, which, Foster says, is one of the playwright’s points.
“He’s saying that they’re not all that different from men,” the director says. “None of our actresses has said ‘I could never say that’ or ‘That doesn’t ring true.'”
Still, this is a different Mamet.
In “Boston Marriage,” he uses language that is closer to Oscar Wilde than to “Glengarry,” a stylized and formal dialogue peppered with profanity.
This arch way of speaking is just another puzzle for director and cast to work through, Foster says.
“In some ways it’s a little like Sondheim, where he’ll twist a phrase and after a few listenings, you go ‘Oh! Of course!'” Foster says.
“And then you feel stupid, like you should have gotten it. But you admire the craftsmanship, someone who loves the art of playwrighting so much that they will go to the trouble to do this.”
While Mamet doesn’t spell out emotions in the script’s stage directions, Foster says his use of pauses and beats and ellipses is positively mathematical, making it seem all the more like a puzzle to be solved.
Foster says the fact that “Boston Marriage” is a period piece makes it somehow more accessible. Contemporary theatergoers will let down their guard — getting to know these distant people — only to see that there are parallels to their lives, he says.
“In a contemporary play, it’s too close, people will put up their guard. Sometimes a period piece stands a better chance of landing,” Foster says.
While Mamet does plumb deep issues of power and relationships, and his language can be a bit of a puzzle, Foster says “Boston Marriage” is still wickedly funny.
“As actors, you’re trained to explore and dig and do all that,” he says. “But sometimes, it is as basic as pure comedy, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Boston Marriage” Preview at 8 Friday. Opens Saturday at 8. Performances through May 14 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays (May 1 and 8); Q&A follows the May 8 matinee. Woodward Hall Theatre, Pace University, 235 Elm Road, Briarcliff Manor. $35 general admission, $30 seniors and students, Pace discount. 877-238-5596 or 914-271-2811. Go to the Hudson Stage website.
Photo: Journal News file photo of Dan Foster in rehearsal.