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Published: Thursday, 1/3/2008

Rep plans reading of Mamet's edgy 'Romance'


The Toledo Repertoire Theatre opens the new year with some edge - an EdgyRepReading to be exact.

The troupe presents David Mamet's Romance Saturday in the Belvedere Room of the Toledo Club.

In its third year, the EdgyRepReading series presents staged readings of shows that deserve an audience but may not have a wide enough appeal to warrant a full production.

Mamet's comedy-drama fits this scenario, as a courtroom situation degenerates into a verbal free-for-all.

Director Barbara Barkan says that Mamet uses verbal and body language to strip away the veneer of civilized behavior and expose the prejudices simmering just beneath the surface.

Romance, she says, takes aim at religious prejudices, homophobia, and the tensions between church and state.

The play is set in a courtroom, where a Jewish chiropractor is being tried on accusations of committing fraud. Suffering from hay fever, the judge has taken too many antihistamines, which first put him to sleep, then cause him to behave in a bizarre manner. The defendant's attorney secretly hates Jews; the prosecutor can't leave a domestic squabble at home; and various other court officials and witnesses have their own observations on the trial and on a Middle East peace conference taking place in their city.

"One of the things the play reveals is how external influences have an impact on what's going on in the courtroom," Barkan says.

Traditional readings generally feature performers sitting on stools, reading the script from the music stand in front of them, but Barkan says she has somewhat departed from tradition.

For one thing, the wood-paneled Belvedere Room has the ambience of a courtroom, allowing the audience to feel as if they are witnessing judicial events.

"I've got some props, some sound effects, and the actors do move around," she says. "I don't like to direct statically."

The cast of Romance comprises Tim Keogh as the doctor, Charles Crockett as the judge, Jeffrey Albright as the prosecutor, Matthew Boland as the prosecutor's friend, Lane Hakel as the defense attorney, Ken Wieland as the bailiff, Brian Weisenberger as the defendant, and Carol Ann Erford as the narrator.

Because Mamet's productions often depend on the lyrical nature of excessive profanity, Barkan says that the play is for mature audiences. She also suggests that because of the setting, business casual attire is appropriate. Despite being in the Toledo Club, non-members are welcome to attend, and a Rep representative will be in the lobby to direct audience members to the appropriate location.

Audience members should not feel shortchanged that Romance is a reading rather than a full production, Barkan says.

Actors really support readings, she says. "We know it doesn't have to be bells and whistles, props and lighting. We know an audience can be engaged by words.

"But [Romance] needs a strong cast, and I've got that."

"Romance" is scheduled Saturday in the Belvedere Room of the Toledo Club. A reception with complimentary hors d'oeuvres begins at 7:30 p.m.; the performance starts at 8. Tickets are $12. Information: 419-243-9277.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.

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