REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams


lakeboat by mamet

By David Mamet

Directed by G. J. Cederquist

At Steep Theatre

“I know a guy who ate a chair, just ’cause nobody stopped him.” – Lakeboat

Gritty, Chicago style realism shines in early Mamet drama

Steep Theatre has amassed a rich collection of work over the last few years. Their expert ensemble of players specialize in tough, raw and gritty works. In their first Mamet work,  Lakeboat, under the tight direction by G. J. Cederquist, their ensemble demonstrates their acting chops.

lakeboat by mamet

Lakeboat is a semi-autobiographical work first performed in 1980 based on Mamet’s experience as a cook on a Lake Michigan freighter (probably an ore boat) that ran from Gary to Duluth and back.  We meet the crew of  the T. Harrison, peopled by a crusty bunch of lonely losers.  This early David Mamet play is an 85 minute slice-of-life plot-less drama filled with telling monologues,  funny tidbits, and graphic sexual encounters by the crew as the monotony of sea life fans heavy drinking and rich imaginations.

Lakeboat is a coming-of-age story told from the new mate, a college student, Dale (Nick Horst) on the ship. The stories begin when everyone is talking about what happened to Dale’s predecessor, Guigliani. Was he attacked and killed on land by a whore or what? That depends who tells the story.

lakeboat by mamet

The ship has many unique characters including Fireman (Jim Poole), who reads Playboy when not “watching the gauges”; Fred (terrific work by Eric Roach) tries to sell his warped view of woman as he vividly tells the story of how he scored his first sexual conquest – this monologue is funny yet troubling as Fred uses violence and terror to get his girl to have sex.

There are the two drunks who are always arguing over films and there is Joe (Sean Bolger) who see himself in Dale 23 years earlier. Joe reveal his secrets and dreams to Dale including his boyhood desire to be a ballerina.

Lakeboat is filled with Mametspeak that include raw language, unfinished sentences and crude imagery. This early work demonstrates Mamet’s fine ear for the language of the common folk. The stories are engaging, pathetic, and disgusting – yet -we are captivated by being in earshot of these crude guys.  It is a foul-mouthed work that may offend some. The ensemble work here is amazing, especially from Eric Roach, Jim Poole, Sean Bolger and Peter Moore.  Come ship-on for a 85 minute ride to experience the thought and dreams of working class stiffs.


Tom Williams

At Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn, Chicago, IL,, tickets $2- – $22, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through February 26, 2011

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