Lakeboat | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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LAKEBOAT, Hypocrites, at the Viaduct Theater. David Mamet in his 1980 one-act humorously recalls his stint as an 18-year-old cook aboard a Great Lakes cargo tanker, where he became a sort of "son confessor" to sturdy men of the lake. Episodic scenes capture the tedium and alienation of this blue-collar world of alpha-male wannabes and offer snippets of elliptical conversation, talk at cross-purposes, and all the misogynistic, homophobic, scatological blather that makes up the usual guy talk. The topics--booze, conquests, sandwiches, pressure gauges, the racetrack, movie stars, marriage--may vary, but under the small talk are the blowhard hype and quiet desperation Mamet would milk in countless later male bonders.

Nick Digilio's cast establishes well the characters' vaudevillian quirks and crotchets. As Mamet's surrogate, Steve Wilson overplays the agreeable neophyte, ignoring the hungry writer who's taking remarks down for future reference. Jerry Hlava blusters convincingly as a macho pig who courts ladies by slapping them in the puss. In too-small roles, Rich Cotovsky plays the curmudgeonly first mate and Noah Simon the glum fireman chained to his boiler. Steve Walker carries the show as rueful Joe, a sad-eyed middle-aged veteran who secretly wishes he could have been a ballet dancer and envies the kid for having a future.

It's hard to build these snapshots into an album, but this revival conveys well the men's isolation, which makes Lakeboat seem even slighter and sadder than the writing does.

--Lawrence Bommer

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