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Thursday April 17, 2014
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A Life in the Theater

 

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but also from offstage as we watch snatches of their performances on a fictional stage, the footlights toward our eyes. The series of "plays" in which they perform is a wickedly ridiculous schmaltzfest, more like the lowlights of someone's very long B-movie career than one season in a professional theater season, but no matter.

Mamet, who is now solidly part of the contemporary canon, made his name as part of a little flowering of American arts in the 1970s and 1980s that gloried in the androcentric. It was as if a whole generation of art were inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as movies, books, and plays explored — luxuriated almost — in counting the many ways of male bonding: buddies homoerotic-style, father-son-style, Bickersons-style. Playwright Sam Shepard, the Steppenwolf and Goodman theaters in Chicago, James Dickey, Jim Harrison, and Tom McGuane were a few of the big names in this testosterone-soaked cohort. Mamet's trademark contribution is dialogue that mimics how people really do talk, with all the repetitions, trail-offs, and non sequiturs.

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