I’ve gone through stages with David Mamet the same as I’ve gone through with Mike Tyson. Back when Tyson was the best heavyweight, when he floored Michael Spinks in a few seconds, I was a fan. When Tyson got violent outside the ring, and was having frequent altercations with the law, I lost my enthusiasm for him. Now that Tyson, long after his boxing days, has himself under control and seems deeply contrite for his offenses, I’m back in his corner.
Back when David Mamet was one of the leading playwrights on Broadway, as well as a leading scriptwriter in Hollywood, I was keenly interested in him. When he started writing books of essays such as Writing in Restaurants, he seemed to be a philosopher-artist in the tradition of Goethe, Tolstoi and Shaw.
Then there came a long middle period when Mamet was spouting nonsense. His writing suffered for it. His plays were negligible, and in film he had the debacle of Redbelt. Curiously enough, he was still tolerated in the theatre and film worlds, as if people assumed he would come to his senses.
A few years ago, Mamet had an epiphany of sorts: he realized he was a rightwinger. He thereafter espoused a conservative ideology.
This mental clarification brought back the quality to Mamet’s work. He did well in writing and directing a TV movie on Phil Spector. Ironically, with the ideological lines drawn, he is no longer tolerated.
A few months back, his most recent play, China Doll, bombed on Broadway. The play bombed because of the acting, but people glibly ran off with the opinion that Mamet had written a terrible play.
I argue that Mamet is being treated unfairly at present. I also prognosticate that Mamet will remain a force in theatre and film, as well as contemporary thought, for some time to go. China Doll will get better productions in the future, and will be seen in a far different light.