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The Theatreguide.London Review

House of Games
Almeida Theatre  Autumn 2010

David Mamet's 1987 screenplay has been adapted for the stage by Richard Bean and, despite some small and large changes, plays as the same sort of psychological thriller and who's-screwing-who mystery, with enough twists and turns that even the most cynical are likely to be surprised by some.

You can, of course, buy the film for considerably less than the price of a ticket, but here it is if you want to see it live.

A female psychologist encounters a crew of conmen and is fascinated by the psychological manipulation by which they get people to give them money, so she arranges to watch them at work.

Of course there's also the naughty attraction of a walk on the wild side, especially as she gets sexually involved with the crew leader.

To say anything more would be telling, but you can probably guess that she will get in deeper than she planned and that she and we will begin to be unsure just who is being conned by whom.

(For those who know the film, Bean has changed some of the details of the intermediary cons and significantly softened the ending, but it still works.)

So if the play repeatedly surprises you, you can have the pleasure of being tricked, and if you guess some of the twists in advance, you can have the pleasure of feeling smarter than the playwright. Like any good con, it looks like a win-win situation.

Nancy Carroll is somewhat softer and more vulnerable from the start than Lindsay Crouse was in the film, Michael Landes somewhat less overtly oily than Joe Mantegna was, both changes making the theatrical version a little warmer and more human than the icy film.

The rest of the cast, including Trevor Cooper, Dermot Crowley, Peter De Jersey and Amanda Drew, clearly enjoy playing the roles of people constantly playing roles.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  House Of Games - Almeida Theatre 2010


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