Chicago Theatre Review
Profiles Presents Cryptic Puzzle with ‘Cryptogram’
Cryptogram – Profiles Theatre
David Mamet’s “The Cryptogram” is an atypical work from the famous playwright, a sensitive and carefully observed work which, despite his trademark dialogue rhythms and splashes of humor, bears little resemblance to the machismo works that gave Mamet his stature in the theatrical world. Which is not to say, of course, that the play lacks the focus and power of his best work, particularly in Profile Theatre’s remarkable staging.
Running a taut 70 minutes and featuring just three characters, “Cryptogram” follows a mother, her young son, and a family friend through a turbulent time, though such a synopsis hardly does justice to the play’s intricacies. Simply, things are never quite what they seem in “Cryptogram,” and though the play’s unsettling sound and music (thanks to Jeffrey Levin) and deceptively homely set (huge props to Thad Hallstein) all give the expectation of an extreme conclusion, Mamet and Profiles deliver something more subtle – and in the end, far more horrifying.
As with all Profiles productions, the casting could not be better, though the play’s most extraordinary moments come courtesy of Aaron Lamm, a seventh grader at Wilmette Junior High School who defied all my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, Darrell W. Cox (a four-time Jeff winner) and Abigail Boucher are superb, but given how “Cryptogram” is structured, an enormous weight rests on Lamm’s small shoulders, and he handles his demanding role with remarkable insight and presence. Child actors can be hit-or-miss affairs; even in movies and television, when take after take is possible, child performers can underwhelm, so I approached “Cryptogram” with an inevitable skepticism – thanks to the superb efforts of Lamm, though, I walked away moved.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented Aug. 28 – October 12 by Profiles Theatre, 4147 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613
Tickets are available by calling 773-549-1815 or by visiting www.profilestheatre.org
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.