By - Oct 8th, 2007 02:52 pm
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By Tracy Doyle

Windfall Theatre’s latest venture is a bold attempt at staging a very intriguing and challenging piece of drama, David Mamet’s Cryptogram. Mamet’s work, famous for its frequent interruptions, trail-offs and swear words, is often difficult to nail, but Windfall comes close with this production. And although some of the clues in this play of mystery may be misguided, overall the experience is highly engaging and worth the effort.

The definition of a cryptogram (according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) is a communication in cipher or code, and that is exactly what to expect from Cryptogram. Words, props, set pieces, even gestures are all part of the code, and you, as an audience member, need to piece together the clues to figure out what is going on.

The play revolves around the strangely absent Bobby (who never appears), his wife Donny (Carol Zippel) and their pre-adolescent son John (Avi Borouchoff), who is set to go on a camping trip with his father. As time passes and Bobby’s absence continues, the situation becomes more and more absurd: secrets are revealed and John drifts further and further toward a strange mental place children should never go, due in part to his insomnia and in another part to his role in the adults’ affairs. John starts questioning everything from the existence of countries on the globe to whether or not his mother has ever wanted to die and eventually brings the play to its surreal ending.

The character development is outstanding with Larry Birkett as the family’s bachelor friend, Del, displaying an unsettling, quiet passion. Borouchoff shines with talent rarely seen in young actors, while Zippel’s struggle as her life comes crashing down around her is amazing to watch. However, the pacing was off at times, especially in the first scene, and the blocking left much to be desired. Misdirection of some of the key clues may lead audience members to incorrect conclusions, but all in all, this is a difficult yet fun piece not to be missed.

Cryptogram continues though October 13 at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. For tickets call 414-332-3963.

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