Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 423
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...
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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 tethers of their childhoods, reminiscing about a Christmas that they are still tied up in by an overbearing mother who controlled them with gifts that they did not want or need, with words that they can never forget, with actions that control their todays, bastardizing even the most idyllic of childhood moments.
In act 3, the past is revisited, again in the keenest of dialogue—Bob’s subtle and uttering agreements and Deeny’s thoughtful, philosophical pleasantries. There is a suspension of agony, finally, in conversation that, controlled by Deeny, is more visionary than revisionary. Though that is the precise effect. While Joey of act 1 has claimed they “have no connection,” denying even that of what could have been or what could still be, Deeny brings a connectedness—by way of truth and dreamy possibility of truth, by way of well-founded and solid love (which she desires and Bobby is capable of providing), and by way of, essentially, the connection made by talk, by words, by realistic speech between humans, whatever their dilemma or despair.