Monday, May 23, 2011

The Miseducation of David Mamet

This Weekly Standard piece on David Mamet's conversion to conservatism is an interesting read, in that it unwittingly reveals Mamet has learned the wrong lessons:

Mamet mentioned a screenplay that he hopes will soon be produced involving a young rich girl who applies to Harvard. When she’s rejected she suddenly declares herself an Aztec to qualify for affirmative action. Presumably high jinks ensue. A new two-character play opening in London this fall, The Anarchist, is a “verbal sword-fight” between two women of a certain age, one a veteran of 1960s radicalism, jailed for life on a bombing charge, and the other a reactionary prison governor from whom the aging radical hopes to receive parole. Regardless of the play’s true merits, we can expect the word didactic to get a workout from critics.

Also, regardless of its didacticism, we can also expect the words 'true merits' to get a workout from conservatives.

Terry Teachout noted the problem with this sledgehammer approach to political theatre a couple years back, incidentally amid a discussion on why there are hardly any conservative playwrights:

Mr. Hytner, in other words, wants to produce issue-driven conservative plays that are just like today's liberal plays, only in reverse, whereas the problem with today's political theater is that its practitioners see their plays not as works of art but as means to an end. In such tedious exercises in left-wing agitprop as Sam Shepard's "The God of Hell," Caryl Churchill's "Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?" and Tim Robbins's "Embedded," we are presented with a black-and-white universe of victims and villains, a place where every deck is stacked and never is heard a surprising word. Why would anybody with half a brain in his head -- even a fire-breathing McCainiac, if such a creature exists -- want to suffer through their right-wing equivalent?

Mamet may have once worshipped Bertolt Brecht, but his strength as a playwright has always been his refreshing refusal to sermonize or caricature. Instead his characters interrupt each other constantly, lose trains of thought, and generally speak in short, often vulgar bursts. Even a politically charged play like Oleanna was laden with ambiguous intentions and misunderstanding, showing the strengths and weaknesses of both its characters and the "sides" they represent. In breaking away from his liberal peers and from the characteristics of his writing that often set him apart from them, Mamet is in fact indulging their worst habits.

No comments:

Post a Comment