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Keep Your Pantheon/The Duck Variations

This charming pair of one-act plays by David Mamet includes his world stage premiere of a clever folly — Keep Your Pantheon, a Roman comedy in the Plautus style, replete with swaggering soldiers, wily rogues and more farcical romping than you can shake a wooden phallus at. In Ancient Rome, impoverished actor Strabo (Ed O’Neill), his Eeyore-like acting partner, Pelargon (David Paymer), and handsome troupe bimboy, Philius (Michael Cassidy), soon find themselves enacting a desperate scheme to save their hides, after Strabo’s performance accidentally offends an audience of soldiers. Prayers to the gods are offered, ungodly lecherous advances are made on the hapless Philius, and ultimately Fate — and the resourceful Strabo — save the day. Mamet’s farce is all breezy froth, which director Neil Pepe dispatches at a perfect, crackling pace. The comedy is blessed with an ensemble of some of our most talented comic character actors, anchored by O’Neill and Paymer. The curtain-raiser features Mamet’s rep perennial, The Duck Variations, in which a pair of guffers (Harold Gould and Michael Lerner) on a park bench debate the world, existence and ducks. Pepe’s intimate staging of Mamet’s subtly pointless — or is it profound? — conversational dialogue is blessed by Gould’s and Lerner’s beautifully organic performances, which elevate the park-bench drama to a level of Godot-like absurdity. Sun., May 18, 4 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: May 18. Continues through June 8, 2008


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