(Masterpieces of American Literature)

That David Mamet is a master of language is once again utterly apparent in this play, but what is also clear is Mamet is a linguophile. The redemption comes by way of Bobby returning to his old neighborhood, by way of the communing and commiserating of a family culture, and ultimately by way of dialogue that hums, spits, stutters, and stalls. Intentional and realistic, the spoken words are as evocative as the pauses to express the ineffable.

Bobby Gould has come home, returning to his old Chicago neighborhood (“to get Comfort”), where he converses with his boyhood buddy Joey in act 1 (“The Disappearance of the Jews”), with sister Jolly and her husband Carl in act 2 (“Jolly”), and with a past lover, perhaps still loved, in act 3 (“Deeny”). While the present points toward the question of the future, the past is the focus.

In act 1, a dolorous exchange of “woulda-coulda-shoulda” is the bonding agent. Bobby would love to have been in Hollywood in the 1920’s. Joey would have loved living in the shtetl. Joey would lose his wife to old age, and the people of town would bake for him. They would have been smart Jews. They would have been free. However, the characters are not free. The true freedom is only in the words, in the essence of their epic and allusive storytelling and in their heroic plans for a future trip, which surely will release them into a pleasant memory.

In act 2, brother and sister futz with the...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

The Old Neighborhood Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bigsby, C. W. E. Beyond Broadway. Vol. 3 in A Critical Introduction to Twentieth Century American Drama. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Bigsby, C. W. E. David Mamet. London: Methuen, 1985.

Cohn, Ruby. New American Dramatists: 1960-1980. New York: Grove Press, 1982.

Dean, Anne. David Mamet: Language as Dramatic Action. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990.

Mamet, David. Writing in Restaurants. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.

Ruas, Charles. Conversations with American Writers. London: Quartet Books, 1986.