Critics of David Mamet’s ‘conservative’ opinions have accidentally opened a long-overdue discussion about ‘cancel culture’
Photo: David Mamet, whose play “American Buffalo” is being revived on Broadway, has embraced conservatism in recent years.Credit…Mark Sullivan/WireImage, via Getty Images
19 April 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
David was born in 1947 and raised in a Jewish family in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Goddard College in Vermont, graduating in 1969 with a degree in English literature, though he considers the Chicago Public Library his alma mater.
A prolific dramatist, Mamet won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984 for Glengarry Glen Ross and earned a reputation for writing working-class characters and for his trademark dialogue.
In 1985, Mamet and actor William H. Macy founded the Atlantic Theater Company, an off-Broadway nonprofit theater. To date, he has written 36 plays, 29 screenplays, 17 books, and directed 11 films.
David Mamet’s latest character describes an airplane pilot who gets lost because his map is incomplete. “The pilot’s answer to the question ‘where am I?’ lies not on the map, but out the windscreen,” says the character, speaking in the everyday language set to staccato rhythm that has come to be known as Mametspeak. “That’s where he is.”
This new monologue is not delivered in one of Mamet’s dozens of plays or films, but in a friend-of-the-court brief that Mamet filed last month.
He wrote it in support of a Texas law intended to prevent social media companies from censoring conservative voices. (The law has been challenged on the grounds that it could prevent private platforms from reasonably moderating content.) The legal setting helps explain the absence of one typical Mamet feature: profanity.
With a revival of “American Buffalo,” his classic 1975 drama about small-time hustlers in a Chicago junk shop, opening Thursday night on Broadway in a production starring Laurence Fishburne, Mamet has been engaged in a blizzard of activities that are hardly standard fare for preshow publicity.
But they are very much in keeping with his long history of pushing hot buttons — and with his late-career embrace of conservatism and support for former President Donald J. Trump.
In addition to the amicus brief, Mamet released an essay collection this month, “Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch,” in which he complains about the “plandemic” coronavirus lockdowns, decries “the Left’s anti-Trump psychosis” and suggests that it was Democrats and the media who threatened “armed rebellion” in the event that their preferred candidate lost the 2020 election.
Then, over the weekend, Mamet fueled outrage by claiming on Fox News that “teachers are inclined, particularly men, because men are predators, to pedophilia.”
He made the remark while discussing a Florida law prohibiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain younger grades, a law opponents have labeled “Don’t Say Gay.”
“If there’s no community control of the schools, what we have is kids being not only indoctrinated but groomed, in a very real sense, by people who are, whether they know it or not, sexual predators,” Mamet told the host, Mark Levin.
“Are they abusing the kids physically?” Mamet added. “No, I don’t think so. But they’re abusing them mentally and using sex to do so.”
In response, the Tony Award-winning actor Colman Domingo wrote on Twitter, apparently referring to another Mamet play, “Speed-the-Plow,” “American Theater. Do your duty. Take out the trash. Buffalo’s, Plows and all.”
And the culture writer Mark Harris wrote on Twitter, “At a time of increasing threats to gay people, David Mamet has chosen to ally himself with the purveyors of a vicious ugly slander that will endanger teachers and LGBT Americans. It’s inexcusable.”
Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne and Darren Criss star in an electric revival of the David Mamet play about capitalism in a junk shop.
In the electric revival that opened on Thursday at Circle in the Square, Teach is embodied with coiled and then terrifyingly uncoiled ferocity by Sam Rockwell, making a great occasion of a great role. When he first skitters into the junk shop run by his poker buddy Don — Laurence Fishburne in a beautifully considered performance — he’s already seething about a petty insult and stalking the joint like a rat-peacock hybrid.
By the time he inserts himself into a heist Don is planning with his dim young gofer and protégé, Bobby, played by the angelic if underpowered Darren Criss, he is so hopped up on delusions of profit that he endangers the operation he means to abet.
When “American Buffalo” first hit the stage, in Chicago in 1975, its portrait of lowlifes like Teach — two-bit grifters aping the realpolitik of American business — was a game changer.
Though it did not quite induce sympathy for a man who would strike a kid in the face with an iron, it did make audiences queasy about the respectable entrepreneurs whose behavior Teach was translating to his own turf. In language as crass and cadenced as gunfire, Mamet turned their man-eat-man philosophy, which some call capitalism, into brutal prole poetry: a poetry of predation, you might even say.
To see “American Buffalo” now, in a time when everyone seems to talk like Teach, is to be unsurprised — and thus, in a way, more harrowed. What could be more terrible than to realize we’ve acclimated to the ideas the play introduced?
Yet this revival, its third on Broadway, is too compelling to permit complacency. Directed with gleeful energy by Neil Pepe, it keeps its attention on the music of the dialogue. Indeed, that’s the only music you get, as Mamet does not allow the regular kind or even amplification. (There are no mics and no sound designer.) Not to worry: With the audience on three sides of Circle’s capsule-shaped stage, everyone is close enough to hear just fine as the actors get their mouths around the characters’ baroque constructions.