Quiet Centers

Wilson's Two Trains and Mamet's Voysey keep the storms offstage and the moral crises on

Granville Barker told this tale in 1905, in high Edwardian style, ornate, rounded, and thick with detail. Mamet, with only minimal violation of the period tone, streamlines and compresses it. Picture a change from William Morris wallpaper to a clean-lined, jagged art deco pattern. Sometimes it's slightly too jagged: Important secondary characters like the spinster sister and black-sheep brother get short shrift; the relation between Edward and his perplexed fianc�e, Alice (Samantha Soule), loses density. But in many ways Mamet makes events tauter and more lucid; despite Barker's undoubted genius, his playwriting has a woolly streak. It can still hold power, as recent productions at the Mint Theater and Theatre for a New Audience have demonstrated (the Mint gave the New York premiere of Barker's original Voysey text only a few years back), but its spirit emerges happily enough from Mamet's terseness.

In The Voysey Inheritance, a prosperous family settles its disputes with maximal discretion.
Carol Rosegg
In The Voysey Inheritance, a prosperous family settles its disputes with maximal discretion.

Details

Two Trains Running
By August Wilson
Signature Theatre
555 West 42nd Street
212-244-7529

The Voysey Inheritance
By David Mamet, adapted from the play by Harley Granville Barker
Atlantic Theater
336 West 20th Street
212-239-6200

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Slightly less happy, though, is David Warren's production, which tends to skate over the deep undercurrents that weigh down the Voysey clan: The women come off muted or vague while the men tend to lapse into generalized shouting. (C.J. Wilson, as the military brother, and�astonishingly�Peter Maloney, as the firm's wealthiest client, both spoil potentially fine performances that way.) Still, the story, which couldn't be more up-to-date, rings loud and clear, the designers catch the atmosphere wonderfully, and Stuhlbarg, quiet, methodical, whispery, makes a rivetingly creepy embodiment of integrity at a moral crossroad.

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