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The Old Neighborhood

There are two ways to phrase something: the way a regular person would, and the way David Mamet would. One of the prominent playwrights of our era, he has carved an entire career out of writing conversations the way he wishes they were as opposed to how they actually are. With his propensity for answering questions with more questions, characters repeating what another has just said, and the inevitable appearance of expletive-laden monologues, one can take a clear stand with Mamet; you either love him or hate him.

Since his auspicious debut play, American Buffalo, netted him the Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play, he has gone on to achieve success in both theater and on the big screen. Among his silver screen successes are the Academy Award winning film The Untouchables and the Oscar nominated picture Wag the Dog. However, nothing is more representative of both Mamet's talent and writing style than his story of crooked real estate salesman Glengarry Glen Ross.

Published in 1998, The Old Neighborhood combines three previously written single act plays into one. The common thread between all of them is that they center on Bobby Gould, a soon to be divorced, middle-aged Jewish man, returning to his home town in search of order and tranquility. All three of the acts deal with an encounter with someone from the old town; childhood buddy, sister, and past lover. However, this is far from a cheerful tale of returning to home-sweet-home and meeting and making up with people from your past. Each of the pieces has a tragic issue lurking beneath; failed marriage, estranged childhood, jilted love.

Regardless of whether the plays are actually autobiographical or just deal with very personal issues, the work here focuses heavily on the Jewish experience that Mamet has always been very vocal about. In some of his essays, Mamet discusses his feelings towards others in the Jewish community, but here he illustrates them in dramatic form. It is an opportunity to look into the thoughts and feelings that Mamet has towards his culture and people.

Over the last quarter-century, David Mamet has authored more than twenty-five screenplays and thirty-five plays. Add to that credits as a director, songwriter (albeit for his moderately successful wife's albums), and author of children's books, and you can see why he is considered by many to be one of the great writers of our time. Even if you do not care for his style, it is impossible to contest that he is an important writer still going strong.

Aurora Theatre Company
2071 Addison Street
(Addison @ Shattuck Ave.)
Berkeley, CA 94704
Phone: 510.843.4822
http://www.auroratheatre.org