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"The Old Neighborhood" 

Three short plays by David Mamet, in the usual dialogue rut

Wednesday, Oct 1 2003
David Mamet wrote this triptych of short plays about his own Jewish neighborhood early in his career, then revised them in 1997. The plays are more autobiographical than his best work -- Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo -- so they should be more honest and free, but somehow they're not. The Disappearance of the Jews has Bobby Gould (Mamet's alter ego) talking to a school friend about their upbringing. The two actors -- Michael Santo as Bobby, Ron Kaell as his friend Joey -- sometimes have to force their way through emotional moments, and sometimes they miss the rigid timing of Mamet's overly simple dialogue, but the characters grow on you. The same goes for Jolly, the middle piece, about Bobby's frustrated sister, complaining about her now-dead parents. "The kinda background we come from?" she says. "It's a miracle we can wind our own watch." Amy Resnick makes Jolly an appealing, kvetching housewife, but those of us who know her work also know that Resnick is bending and restraining her considerable talent to play Jolly as Mamet has written her. And there's nothing Delia MacDougall can do for Deeny, the simple-minded subject of Mamet's third piece of the same name. Deeny is a bit of a birdbrain, twittering to Bobby over drinks about urban gardening and her job. Birdbrains can be interesting, but Mamet gives Deeny so little dimension that MacDougall also has to cramp herself to get through the lines. Mamet tends to fall into a rut with his dialogue: He finds a colloquial pattern that in his best work sounds realistic and tough, but here it just sounds mannered and needlessly obscure.


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