ROMANCE * Written by David Mamet * Directed by Neil Pepe * Atlantic Theater Company, New York City, through April 19.

David Mamet, the playwright and filmmaker best-known for tough-guy foul-mouthed works like American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross, seems to be going through a gay spell. His last play, Boston Marriage, was a rococo late Victorian drama about power dynamics in a lesbian relationship. And his newest, Romance, having its world premiere Off-Broadway, is an insane farce that looks like Mamet’s version of a Christopher Durang play. 

Ostensibly it’s a courtroom drama in which a pill-popping judge (the hilarious Larry Bryggman) presides over one of those tedious trials in which lawyerly minutiae obscure the actual issues. The fact that high-level Middle East peace negotiations are being conducted nearby triggers philosophizing that quickly descends into vicious insults directed at virtually every race, creed, and color. When the prosecutor (Bob Balaban), whom we’ve seen sipping Cosmos with his thong-clad boy-toy Bernard (aka Bunny, aka Buns, played by Keith Nobbs), comes out in court, he sets off a nutty string of gay revelations. Before you can say “flight to Ibiza,” they’re all floating wild theories: Do gay men prefer black-and-white movies to color?
Was Abraham Lincoln Jewish? did Shakespeare pluck his eyebrows? 

Clearly tossed off as a lark by a prolific author, the play’s commentary on contemporary life as one big farce comes off as zany but obvious. Still, Romance does ring new changes on a familiar Mamet tactic: he uses homophobic humor to express straight men’s insecurity about their masculinity while mocking it at the same time.

The Advocate, April 12, 2005