Reza Yavarian’s Demythologizing Popular American Myths: Critical Reading of David Mamet’s Plays
Reza Yavarian’s Demythologizing Popular American Myths: Critical Reading of David Mamet’s Plays (Author-House) offers an Indian/Iranian vision of the plays; and Mariusz Marszalski’s Metaphysical Perspective in the Drama of Sam Shepard, David Rabe, and David Mamet (Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wroclawskiego) approaches American drama from the Polish postmodernist perspective, emphasizing the philosophical in the text, deliberately excluding performance. My own study, David Mamet’s Oleanna (Continuum 2009) seeks to find a balance of performance-based and textual approaches to the play, demonstrating how it is itself a kind of cubist concoction, with the conflicts seen from different frameworks depending on the view, and resulting in divergent interpretations. It concludes that Mamet’s purpose “is to bring the audience to confront what it has repressed. In the process, we must all come to realize ‘We can only interpret the behavior of others through the screen we . . . create” as John says in the play.
Yavarian’s approach is to see Mamet’s works as critique of American myths revealing, in Christopher Bigsby’s terms, a “hollowed out” nation. But the concept of America from afar seems a little skewed, as with Duck Variations: “George and Emil belong to a poor community that can not afford the luxuries which are the symbols of prosperous America and televised as a ‘natural’ and ‘essential’ part of ordinary American life.” The only possible ‘luxury’ referred to by the play is a yacht on Lake Michigan, surely not a “natural” expectation of any “ordinary American.” This economic interpretation is not quite the point of Mamet’s critique of American society which has more to do with emptiness and inability to speak of the lack of meaning in the characters’ lives. Mamet’s gift is in writing without being too specific in his critique of America so the object of the critique is never defined, left unstated or avoided. Therefore to specify a particular target, like socio-economic class, is to reduce Mamet to conventional social-critic drama, and irrelevancy over time. By leaving the issue unstated, however, Mamet forces the audience to fill in the blanks; too often then audience members and critics fill the blanks, and think what they’ve filled in is Mamet’s point. It’s not, exactly.