Part of the Goodman’s Mamet festival, this program of three short plays starts with a very early work and progresses to a very recent one, getting meaner but also more masterful along the way. The Duck Variations (1972) portrays a pair of old kibitzers whose park-bench ruminations produce only one solid conclusion: that the young Mamet was a talent of extraordinary potential. In The Disappearance of the Jews (1983) the ruminations come from a couple of boyhood friends who’ve reached their late 30s and have wives, kids, solid jobs, some fond memories–and dark fantasies of escape. Home (2005) dispenses with the ruminations, the friendship, and most certainly the escape fantasy: it’s a harsh sketch of marital breakdown as psychological death match. Though The Duck Variations is half ruined by a preening performance from Howard Witt, the other two (and a half) productions deliver powerful effects, ranging from sweet delight to Medean rage. “Homecomings” reinvigorates a festival whose first two offerings seemed to do its subject’s reputation more harm than good. Sat 4/8, 8 PM, Wed 4/12, 7:30 PM, Fri 4/14, 8 PM, and Sat 4/15, 2 PM, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800, $15-$35, festival passes $70-$205 (do not include admission to The Revenge of the Space Pandas or American Buffalo: A Celebration).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.