In reading about Bernard Madoff's multibillion-dollar scam and his family (involved or not?), I note the repeated questions about how someone so charming and seemingly good could do such evil things. That's also an underlying theme of David Mamet's 2005 adaptation of Granville Barker's 1905 play The Voysey Inheritance, now being staged with spirit if not consistency by the Summer Company.
Mamet's adaptation of a classic drama underlines such modern issues as the innate questionability of inherited and unearned wealth, and such age-old problems as the slippery relationship between money and virtue.
Much in this production rests on the shoulders of Donald DiGulio as the Voysey heir who juggles one moral conundrum after another. His horror at discovering his father's life of Madoff-like crime -- and his principles about doing the right thing even if it means prison -- compete with the family's demands to avoid disgrace and "dishonor." The family's reputation resting on a fortune built by fraud is just one of the ironies cutting through the play. DiGulio deftly deals with both the play's irony and the task of pushing along the plot.
Keeping up to speed with him, Jay Keenan, as the family firm's biggest client and oldest friend, manfully twists his character's definitions of respectability inside out. As the hero's fiancée, Laurie Bolewitz brings a lively sense of humor and a perfectly period profile (reminiscent of Madame X, in John Singer Sargent's masterpiece). In a smaller role, TJ Firneno portrays the artsy brother with languid grace. Also notable are Ray Schafer as the sociopathic father; Chad Bender (a bit loud) as the hot-headed military brother; and Joseph Barron as the trenchant brother, Trenchard (sorry, couldn't resist).
In directing this production, John E. Lane Jr. is true to Mamet's wry sense of humor (even if the audience doesn't always seem to get the jokes). But as a designer he's sloppy. Excuse me, but decades of Upstairs Downstairs, Merchant-Ivory movies and other fin-de-siècle extravaganzas have imprinted on us what upper-middle-class types wore at different times of the day, and it's quite distracting to see virtually all the men and most of the women in the wrong clothes in scene after scene.
OK, deep breath. Don't judge any play just on its looks. While sometimes a bit rocky, The Voysey Inheritance is crisp, fun and achingly timely.
The Voysey Inheritance continues through Sat., July 25. The Summer Company in the Peter Mills Theater, Rockwell Hall, Duquesne University, Uptown. 412-396-6429.