Peter Riegert

When the David Mamet play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” premiered at New York’s Off Broadway Cherry Lane Theater in 1976, it not only put Mamet on the theatrical map, but it also boosted the career of the then 28 year old actor Peter Riegert. Spark checks in on Riegert as he returns to the play 30 years later, this time as director of San Francisco’s A.C.T. production.

Mamet’s play, which won an Obie for its 1976 premiere production, follows the experiences of four single people in 1970s Chicago. The piece was controversial in its time for its liberal use of off-color language as well as its frank portrayal of contemporary sexual mores. But perhaps the play’s greater innovations lie in its formal structure, which condenses a staggering 34 scenes into just over an hour.

For the actors in the 2006 A.C.T. production of “Sexual Perversity,” its rapid-fire pace is both demanding and energizing. Mamet’s script leaves no margin for error as the play’s staccato rhythm transforms the dialogue into something like a musical score, wherein every pause and note is meticulously timed and carefully executed. The play is difficult to master for actors and directors alike, often making it difficult to realize Mamet’s dramatic vision.

A devoted student of Mamet since taking on the role of Danny in the 1976 production, Riegert brings a consciousness to the production that can only come from an intimate knowledge of the material. For Riegert, who continues to have a long and successful career in acting, directing is a welcome new frontier, rife with fresh challenges and opportunities for experimentation.

Riegert is a veteran actor who has appeared in more than 60 movies and television series, including “Animal House” (1978), “Local Hero” (1983) and “Crossing Delancey” (1989). David Mamet is one of the most acclaimed American playwrights of the last century. He is known for overturning narrative conventions and crafting contentious situations characterized by emotional confrontations. In addition to “Sexual Perversity,” Mamet’s best known plays include “The Duck Variations” and “American Buffalo.” In 1984, Mamet was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Peter Riegert 30 July,2015Spark
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