The übermasculinity Mamet aims to capture dulls when transplanted from actual mess halls and boiler-rooms to an intimate Capitol Hill theater, making Lakeboat a self-conscious museum curio, not macho-lovin' art. The boatboys chew the fat about action films and hard knocks, drunkenness and how to get laid ("treat 'em like shit," recommends one cantankerous old salt). Always benign, despite their ruthless talk, they eat pie, smoke, complain, fantasize, and occasionally work. Meandering through vignettes between two or three characters, Lakeboat's only major plotline concerns the distant and vaguely insane captain's quest to get an egg sandwich, and an evolving rumor about some crew member who didn't return from shore leave. Never quite brilliant and sometimes downright terrible, the production retains an entertaining, if not illuminating, edge throughout.
With a few exceptions, Lakeboat is burdened with uninspired and inconsistent performances, as well as overly self-conscious "look-we're-doing-Mamet-dialogue" delivery. However, as Fred, the animated, cigar-chomping logician, Thomas Crown was a steady breath of fresh air--stomping, jabbering, and bringing life to an otherwise flat cast.
In the end, the script steals the show, making the overall effect more like an off-book reading than a bona fide performance. Though the script celebrates workin'-man atavism and drink-away-your-wages living, artistic license allows us to peek behind the sweat and blisters, into the characters' sometimes rough, sometimes gentle souls.