Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sexual Perversity in Chicago, along with its companion play, Duck Variations (pr. 1972, pb. 1977), was Mamet’s first critical and popular success. Sexual Perversity in Chicago won the Joseph Jefferson Award in 1975; in 1976, along with American Buffalo (pr. 1975, pb. 1977), it won the Obie Award for best new American play. While later plays did not return to the sexual battleground in any significant way, Mamet continued his exploration of how characters speak to one another, and how language exposes and hides feelings and intentions. Many critics have compared him to Harold Pinter because of these efforts; Mamet paid the British author homage by dedicating the published version (1984) of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross (pr. 1983) to him.

Mamet has continued to focus on male characters, but Sexual Perversity in Chicago is unusual in that the main topic of male conversation is women. With American Buffalo, Mamet shifts from women and what they represent to money and what it means. His major plays are plays about deals—what they are, how they are made, who wins, who loses, and why. All the plays establish bonds of friendship and trust which are then ignored or destroyed for personal gain or power. These plays include American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Speed-the-Plow (pr., pb. 1988). Corruption and betrayal are Mamet’s main concerns,...

(The entire section is 414 words.)