Saturday, April 17, 2010


Sometimes my ignorance surprises me. It doesn't surprise me that I'm ignorant. There are many things about which I lack knowledge. Certain things, though, surprise me in that I should probably have known them but don't.

The fact that David Mamet is a playwright is the point of ignorance that spawns this post. I was at our library's book sale yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see a play of Mamet's for sale. I've always enjoyed his movies, especially the dialogue, and so I scooped up this small play and read it rather quickly (it's only eighty pages).

The play is about a male college professor and one of his students. The play takes place in the professor's office. In the first act, the student is there, ostensibly, for help with the professor's class. While they discuss the issues at hand, the professor's phone rings and the professor interrupts the discussion as he takes calls from his wife and attorney about a house he is trying to purchase in celebration of his pending tenure.

In the second act, the pair meet again. The student has brought up issues of impropriety with the tenure granting commission based on what took place in act one. Once again there are phone calls interrupting the pair but the tone of the calls and the conversation are very different from the first act.

The final act has the professor summoning the student to his office. Legal charges have been brought against the professor for his actions in the second act. The phone interruptions are very brief as the importance of the dealings with the student has superseded the other aspects of his life.

Not surprisingly, with this being a Mamet work and all, the play is very much about the importance of words and, to a lesser extent, actions. It's also about power and how elusive it actually is. Yes, all in eighty pages.

This play was originally performed by William H. Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon, two stalwarts of Mamet movies. Pidgeon is Mamet's wife and I've seen her in Mamet's films The Heist, The Spanish Prisoner, State and Main and Redbelt. I've seen Macy in the Mamet flicks State and Main, Homicide and House of Games. As such, it wasn't too hard hearing their voices as I read the play. As a matter of fact, this play was made into a movie with Macy as the professor. I'll probably check it out if our library system has it (it doesn't. But it does have the two Mamet/Macy films Edmond and Spartan.

This was a nice quick read, a departure from my usual readings (although I did read Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead last year), and an educational experience in that I realized Mamet writes plays. A recommended book.

Next up will be a baseball book. I finally abandoned the 600+ page book The Worst Journey in the World. The rate I was going it would have taken me until June to finish it. I had it out for five weeks, got through the 80 page introduction and the first 100 pages or so and while it was interesting and good, it really needed longer stretches of reading than I could commit and there are so many other things I want to read I just could not continue to devote time to it.

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