By Melissa Rose Bernardo
September 30, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ari Mintz

Two Unrelated Plays by David Mamet

C
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  • Stage

Perhaps David Mamet intended this double bill as a palate cleanser before his two heady dramas — a revival of his 1992 Oleanna and a world premiere, Race — open on Broadway later this year. Perhaps he wanted to remind us that, hey, Mamet can still bring the funny. Or perhaps he was just cleaning out the proverbial playwright’s drawer. Now playing at Off Broadway’s Atlantic Theater Company, which he co-founded, ”School” and ”Keep Your Pantheon” are both Unrelated and unremarkable.

The brand-new, 11-minute ”School” yields laughs not from its subject matter (recycling, history, war, and about 20 other topics) but from its frustrating, rat-a-tat, who’s-on-first-style exchange between A (John Pankow) and B (Rod McLachlan). ”I will protect my planet by recycling paper,” says A, quoting a recycled-paper poster. ”Doesn’t that use a lot of paper?” The newish ”Pantheon,” a NYC premiere, travels to ancient Rome…because when you think of Mamet, you think of swords and sandals? Watching a troupe of unlucky actors — the self-involved star (Brian Murray), the sidekick/straight man (Pankow), and the well-muscled, untalented ingénue (Michael Cassidy) — tackle false imprisonment, mistaken identities, and a portable phallus should be a ready-made toga party; instead, it feels like a 55-minute SNL sketch. Fortunately, no one serves up ham like the terrifically funny Murray. As for the material — pure cheese. C

(Tickets: (ticketcentral.com) or 212-279-4200)

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