Chicago Theater Review: THE CRYPTOGRAM (Profiles)

by Barnaby Hughes on October 6, 2014

in Theater-Chicago

PUZZLING THROUGH THE CRYPTOGRAM IS WORTH THE EFFORT

The title alone should have been clue enough that this was going to be a difficult play, but nothing could have prepared me for the lack of perspicacity. I felt just like the lost young boy at the center of David Mamet’s The Cryptogram. Unlike the kid, I could understand what the adults were saying, as well as what they weren’t saying. It was the deeper meaning of it all that was elusive. Surely there had to be something more to this play than a case of miscommunication?

Darrell W. Cox and Abigail Boucher in David Mamet’s THE CRYPTOGRAM at Profiles Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

And so there is. Although the action revolves around the boy John (Aaron Lamm), his mother Donny (Abigail Boucher), and their friend Del (Darrell W. Cox), it is a fourth, unseen character who proves to be the plot’s catalyst. He is the father, the one whose return home John and Donny are awaiting. But Father isn’t coming home because he’s having an affair. So there is a coming-of-age element in the sense of John’s lost innocence, of his fatherless future. More importantly, however, John must learn to cope with ambiguity, with the blurry boundaries of human relationships and the half-hidden truths of human existence. That seems to be the titular word puzzle.

Darrell W. Cox and Aaron Lamm in David Mamet’s THE CRYPTOGRAM at Profiles Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Young Lamm, a fresh-faced seventh grader, certainly appears to have a bright future ahead of him. His impeccable timing and precocity keeps the play’s less than limpid (for Mamet) dialogue briskly moving. It is the awkward and slightly camp Cox that slows it down. Camp is the truly ambiguous character, not merely in terms of sexuality (does he love Donny?), but because he tries to speak to John as to a man, yet betrays John and Donny by acting as an accomplice in the Father’s deception. As the slippery, conniving character caught in the middle, Cox imbues his role with a striking complexity that is both understated and intense. Finally, Abigail Boucher’s visceral and vulnerable performance forms The Cryptogram’s emotional core.

Abigail Boucher and Aaron Lamm in David Mamet’s THE CRYPTOGRAM at Profiles Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

This twentieth anniversary Profiles Theatre production directed by Joe Jahraus gives Mamet’s domestic drama an incredibly intimate feel. Thad Hallstein’s living room set has the audience sitting quite close by on either side, as if invited for afternoon tea or evening cocktails. Raquel Adorno’s period costumes add a welcome dash of Mad Men-era glamor. At just seventy minutes long without intermission, The Cryptogram is a tightly wound miniature packed with uncomfortable truths. If you have the patience to unravel it, the results are worthwhile.

Darrell W. Cox, Abigail Boucher, and Aaron Lamm in David Mamet’s THE CRYPTOGRAM at Profiles Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

photos by Michael Brosilow

Aaron Lamm and Abigail Boucher in David Mamet’s THE CRYPTOGRAM at Profiles Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow.The Cryptogram
Profiles Theatre
The Alley Stage, 4147 N. Broadway
Thurs and Fri at 8; Sat at 5 & 8; Sun at 7
scheduled to end on November 16, 2014
EXTENDED to December 6, 2014
for tickets, call (773) 549-1815
or visit www.profilestheatre.org

for more info on Chicago Theater,
visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

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