The Playgoer: Mamet on Williams

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Mamet on Williams

A professor of mine once laid out a symple psychological formula: what A says about B tells you more about A than it does about B.

In that spirit, I heartily recommend this "revealing" assault on Tennessee Williams (particularly Night of the Iguana from David Mamet. If you don't like Mamet, your feelings will only be confirmed. And there's nothing here that hasn't been said about Williams (especially late Williams) before.

But it's quite a credo, of what Mamet is about. Sample: "If the dialogue does not advance the objective of the character, then why would he say it?" And: "The suggestion that a drama is 'poetic', then, should not be a post-facto apology for the soporific, but rather an accolade to the mechanical purity of the dialogue."

Read on here for more on the struggle between two very different dramatist-poets. The minimalist and the maximalist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is preposterous. Mamet doesn't like O'Neill either. But Mamet's best plays like The Cryptogram do not follow his rules of dramatic structure as set out in this article and in "Three Uses of the Knife." Like the two protagonists of Iguana, or the four of Long Day's Journey, Mamet's three protagonists in The Cryptogram are revealing their inner lives symbolically as well as trying to manipulate and control those important to them. It would seem to me that Mamet envies these two great writers for going deeper and further than he has so far gone. Every play Mamet has written since The Cryptogram -- his Long Day's Journey Into Night -- has been a retreat from that awesome and horrifying revelation and representation of a broken inner world. In attacking Williams and O'Neill, Mamet attacks himself. These fits of self-loathing (also on display on are not surprising from a man who has spent so much time writing Hollywood crap so he can have millions of dollars to buy guns.