Sunday, November 13, 2005

Throw Mamet from the Peace Train

Today I had a ticket to Romance, so I went. Luckily Amy had a ticket, too, because Romance for one just isn't the same, especially when you're married.

The latest David Mamet play, Romance is a farce "intended to excite laughter and depending less on plot and character than on exaggerated, improbable situations, the humor arising from incongruities, coarse wit, or horseplay" (C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature). Indeed. As the program describes the play, it "contains a drug-addled judge, an anti-Semitic defense lawyer, his fiery Jewish chiropractor client, a gay prosecutor and his very fey boyfriend." Arguments about how to keep kosher, was Shakespeare both Jewish and gay, and can a good adjustment of the lumbar region bring peace to the Middle East end up uproarious. Nastiness is funny. Which doesn't seem very romantic at all.

But no one ever said a romance was romantic (at least no one parsing terms in even a relatively elementary lit class). Mamet does make Romance lots of things--over before you know it (90 minutes with an intermission), jaw-droppingly funny in that way that you laugh and then laugh that you're laughing at what you're laughing at, inappropriate. It's a story just of guys, which might be his biggest criticism of justice, of literature, of his own plays (speed that plow indeed, boys). In Romance you're guilty not of burning the roast but ruining the pan; after all, a roast is one meal but the pan could be forever, and would be if you cleaned it how I told you when I stormed out of the room. Romance is loggorhea looking for justice which won't come until everyone confesses their crimes, none of which match up to the charges filed, and someone is always getting undressed at the wrong moment. Yes, there is a wrong moment.

Perhaps it is always wrong moments, so you get me to admit how much I love you when you interrupt me at work prosecuting a client who it turns out had an a affair with you, you liar I love. But perhaps that is all our work--loving, prosecuting, confused by wanting a piece or wanting peace. That might be Heisenberg's rule of the heart, not being able to grasp both of those at the same time, and so any courtroom comedy called Romance must devolve into the vilest names we can call each other and still laugh off, wondering if we can get away with saying, "Is that your punchline, or are you just happy to ream me?"


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