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Theatre / Boston Marriage

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Boston Marriage is a play by David Mamet, first performed in 1999.

The play revolves around Anna and Claire, two women living in 19th-century Boston. As the play opens, the two close friends exchange news of recent good fortune. Claire is pleased and amused by Anna's report of becoming the mistress of a wealthy man, who has showered her with money and gifts including an elaborate emerald necklace. Anna is less pleased when Claire announces that she has fallen in love, foreseeing a disruption of their friendship. The first act ends with a revelation with drastic consequences for them both.

This play contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: It's a Running Gag that Anna and Claire both believe the maid's name is Bridey, or Mary, or something Irish like that, no matter how often she reminds them that her name is Catherine and she's Scottish.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Anna frequently quotes from and draws analogies from the Bible, which Claire tends to miss or misinterpret.
  • Brick Joke: In the first scene, Catherine reports that the cook has quit, and also that she "said as how you could kiss her arse. Till... She said some holiday, but I've forgot it." In the final scene, Catherine comes in with an apparently urgent announcement, only to be repeatedly shushed — but when she does get to deliver it, it's only that she's finally remembered that the holiday in question was Michaelmas.
  • Chromosome Casting: Only three characters appear onstage, all female — Anna and Claire, and Anna's maid Catherine. Mamet's impetus to write the play was criticism he had received that he was only able to write convincing male characters.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Anna and Claire are female examples. Regarding the necklace Anna's gentleman friend gave her:
    Claire: Do you not find it... somewhat excessive for the morning?
    Anna: I wear it should I be summoned on the instant to choke a horse.
    Claire: To choke a horse. Are there not men employed precisely for that purpose?
    Anna: Oh dear, I should hate to think I was depriving them of livelihood.
  • The Ghost: Anna's and Claire's respective paramours influence the plot but never appear onstage. Claire's girlfriend at one point makes it to the next room, where Anna and Catherine can be heard welcoming her, but she doesn't come into the room in which the play takes place.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: During one of their arguments, Claire calls Anna an "evil old bitch". Anna immediately and indignantly denies being old, but lets the rest of the description pass without comment.
  • Madame Fortune: Anna proposes a plan to resolve her and Claire's difficulty that involves posing as a psychic medium named Madame de Something-or-other. (She presumably gets an actual surname by the time the plan is put into action, but it's not revealed to the audience.)
  • Mamet Speak: Naturally, although with suitable adjustments for the 19th-century setting. It's relatively restrained when it comes to vulgar language, for one thing, leaning more toward the Precision F-Strike than the Cluster F-Bomb (but the f-bomb does indeed get dropped).
  • Meal Ticket: Anna's gentleman friend.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only three characters appear onstage — Anna and Claire, and Anna's maid Catherine.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Catherine is Scottish, but Anna and Claire persist in the belief that she's Irish, and make mean remarks about the Potato Famine to relieve their feelings.
  • Nominal Importance: Neither Anna's gentleman friend nor Claire's girlfriend are named at any point, foreshadowing that ultimately they are less important to Anna and Claire than Anna and Claire are to each other. Lampshaded in the case of Claire's girlfriend; when she arrives to visit, Catherine can be heard offstage asking her name, but her response is not audible.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Catherine repeatedly gets shushed when she's trying to tell Anna something and Anna is wrapped up in her own concerns.
  • Skewed Priorities: Near the end, Claire is anguishing over having hurt Anna, proclaiming that it shows she's a bad person who doesn't deserve happiness, and Anna attempts to reassure her by asserting that her actions were only "a slip, perhaps, done in exuberance, but not a true Error". When Claire asks her what would qualify as a "true Error", the worst thing she can think of is "writing in purple ink".
  • Tempting Fate:
    Anna: How could it miscarry?
    Claire: Do not tempt fate.
  • That Came Out Wrong: "While I was admiring your muff, your parts came."
  • Wham Line: The final line of the first act sends the story unexpectedly off in a new direction, as Claire reports that her new girlfriend has taken an interest in the emerald necklace Anna's gentleman friend gave her — because it belongs to her mother.