In 1974, before Internet dating services, cell phones, AIDS, and even disco, baby boomers were smack in the middle of the sexual revolution's Tet Offensive. That year, Mamet won critical acclaim for Perversity, in which he satirizes the sexual repression of his characters in the age of swinging singles. In the Sol Theatre's version, director Robert Hooker presents sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll with, as he himself puts it, "no political correctness whatsoever... 34 scenes of loud '70s music and hyperenergetic soul with no intermission." In the play's short scenes, Mamet chops away at the obligatory nut of message -- the obvious "meaning" that many playwrights before him spoon-fed their audiences. Instead, he uses heavy dialogue and gritty tones -- tools he employed again in later works like Glengarry Glen Ross and The Spanish Prisoner -- and leaves the audience itself to patch together meaning.
The plot of Perversity, although much less fascinating than its searing dialogue and quick-hit delivery, centers on the relationship between Danny and Deborah, whose best friends -- Bernie, a nihilistic chauvinist in bell-bottoms, and Joan, a man-hating feminist -- try to keep them apart. Along the way, Mamet hints at latent homosexual underpinnings between close friends. This work -- a twisted circle of the lost and lonely -- was the inspiration for the brat-packer movie About Last Night, starring Demi Moore. Its sum total of images, caricatures, and stage settings creates a tableau vivant of denial, self-abasement, and cruelty (there's a lot of yelling, crying, and screaming); yet, somehow you laugh... hard. -- John Shannon