David Mamet

Definition

Theater

  • (1947 - ) US playwright and screenwriter. Mamet'sprincipal theme is the debasement of ordinary people by American materialism,or what Mamet calls "the American dream gone bad." Hischaracters, who are often trapped in stereotyped macho attitudes,seek power and money by bullying or manipulating others. Mamet isa master of naturalistic dialogue, capturing the speech patterns ofhis inarticulate characters with uncanny precision. In rehearsals he hasbeen known to use a metronome to make sure that the actors speak hisdialogue with the correct rhythms and pauses.

    In 1973 Mamet co-founded the St Nicholas Theatre Company inChicago. His early successes included the comedy American Buffalo(1975), about two second-rate crooks who attempt to steal a coin collection.The original Greenwich Village Theatre production starred Al Pacinoand shocked audiences with its explicit dialogue. It was seen in Londonthree years later at the National Theatre. Glengarry Glen Ross(1983; filmed 1992), another hit, won the Pulitzer Prize with itsstory of small-time real estate salesmen in cut-throat competition.Other plays by Mamet, all of which were first staged by the St Nicholascompany, include Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974), ALife in the Theatre (1977), the disturbing Edmond (1983),and Speed-the-Plow (1988). Oleanna (1992), about ayoung woman who ruins a man's career by making a false accusationof sexual harassment, bitterly divided audiences, critics, and commentators.

    Since the mid 1980s Mamet has become increasingly involvedin work for the cinema. As well as writing numerous screenplays, hehas directed the films House of Games (1986), The WinslowBoy (1999), from the Rattigan play, and Heist (2000). Althoughhe has sometimes adapted his own plays for the screen, Mamet claims to loathethis process, commenting rather strangely that it is like raping your childrento teach them about sex. More recent work for the stage includes DeathDefying Acts (1996), Boston Marriage (1999), the politicalfarce November (2007), and Race (2009).

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