Mathias Maloff as John and John McDonald as Robert in David Mamet's ‘A Life in the Theatre.’ LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly

The historic Waterfront Playhouse on Mallory Square will present the David Mamet comedy, “A Life in the Theatre,” opening Thursday, May 5 and playing until May 21.

One of Mamet’s earliest and gentlest plays, “A Life in the Theatre,” portrays the changing relationship of John and Robert, two actors — one older and experienced, the other a young up-and-comer — working together in a repertory company.

Robert, the older man, feels he has a great deal to teach John, and, as they work together in a series of shows, he passes on his wisdom. John, the novice, hangs on Robert’s every word at first, knowing that he has a lot to learn. As time goes on, though, Robert becomes resentful of John’s success, and John tires of Robert’s cliche advice. This sardonic love letter to theater follows the shifting power balance between two actors as they engage in backstage banter and play parodic scenes: a sub-Chekhovian comedy, a shipwreck melodrama, and a revolutionary epic, satirizing a vanished world. Mamet’s play examines our changing roles in life through the metaphor of the theater’s never-ending demand for new roles.

The play is directed by Tom Thayer, Waterfront artistic director, with set design by Michael Boyer, lighting design by Kris Hodge and stage managed by Trish Manley with Andrew Theede assisting. 

This production will star John McDonald and Mathias Maloff. McDonald attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with a scholarship from the American Broadcasting Company.

His Broadway acting credits include New York Shakespeare Festival (“Macbeth” with James Earl Jones). On television, he had roles on “Love of Life,” “Guiding Light “and “Search for Tomorrow.”

In 1964 he was awarded Best Actor for his portrayal of Shylock, a role he recently portrayed in the Waterfront Playhouse’s “Something Rotten!” His Waterfront Playhouse roles have included “Clue,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Inspecting Carol,” and “1776 the Musical” at the Waterfront Playhouse. 

Maloff will direct the reading of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Fifth Column” to be performed at the Waterfront. This season alone, Mathias has appeared in “All is Calm,” “Matilda the Musical,” “Clue” and, most recently, “Something Rotten.”

What: “A Life in the Theatre” by David Mamet 

Where: Waterfront Playhouse

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, May 5, then Wednesdays through Saturdays through May 21.

Tickets: waterfrontplayhouse.org or 305-294-5015.

An opening night party takes place in the theater’s garden on Thursday, May 5.

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