Though his recent political writings may have caused him to lose favor in some circles, David Mamet is still considered one of the major playwrights of his generation. The dire scenarios and tough talk of plays such as “American Buffalo” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” still resonate.

Hearing that a Mamet play will be staged locally is genuine cause for excitement, even if the play selected may be one of his lesser known and lighter toned pieces.

“A Life in the Theatre,” which just opened at Freeport Factory Stage under the direction of the tireless Sally Wood, is essentially a sentimental backstage comedy of the sort that appeals most to those closely attuned to the theatrical world. Some may find loose affinities to plays such as “The Dresser,” produced by Mad Horse Theater a couple of seasons back.

The play concerns two repertory actors, one older and given to offering grand pronouncements and admonitions about the art and business of acting. The other is a younger man who may be on his way to a career that will eclipse anything his veteran partner has achieved. A passing-of-the-baton theme gives the play its heart while a series of wild send-ups of theatrical clich? forgotten lines, onstage mishaps and turgid writing provides the laughs.

The audience sits backstage with the actors who are seen applying makeup, changing costumes, practicing scenes and gingerly critiquing each other. They occasionally pull a curtain at the back, beyond which are the imaginary audiences for their various, often humorously overblown, dramatic performances.

With two actors hustling though multiple short scenes, it’s a busy play. But Wood has adapted the 90-minute piece to fit well within the confines of the small theater space at Freeport Factory. Above all, this show offers a rare chance to see two of our best actors work up close.

As the stodgy, sometimes overbearing senior actor, Will Rhys was right on the mark at Friday’s performance. His Robert was pompous but also touching as an artist struggling to maintain dignity in a theater world that doesn’t always conform to the principles in which he strongly believes.

Dustin Tucker was equally engaging as his John tried to learn from the veteran while still keeping him at arm’s length, particularly as his career begins to take off and leave the older fellow behind. Robert, at one point, warns John of the dangers of “mugging” onstage. Tucker may not be completely immune from that practice in his comic mode but he also proves himself an actor of substance here.

Some of the play-within-a-play scenes, while funny, may distract from the core “message” of the play. But this highly entertaining show comes across loud and clear as a labor of love.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.