Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Same Old Same Old Neighborhood

Sometimes I'll see a play or a movie that makes me so nuts I go home and vent in form of a parody.  Seeing David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood in 1997 with Rebecca Pidgeon's replacement was one of those times.



BEENY     a woman in her thirties

CECIL     a man in his thirties or forties


A restaurant in Mamet City

BEENY:  Who is she fucking, that's what I want to know.

CECIL:  It's a valid question.

BEENY:  Cause she has to be good at it.  You know she has to be good at it.  Creative, y'know?  Cause God knows it ain't up on stage, creativity is notable in its absence.  "The Old Neighborhood."  More like "The Same Old Same Old Neighborhood."  And that last scene, with that so-called actress, I mean not like the rest of the play was fabulous, but in my sleep I could do better than her, I could phone in--I could E-mail in a better performance.

CECIL:  I'm sure you could.  So what did you think of the play?

BEENY:  You mean the writing?

CECIL:  The writing.

BEENY:  Oh well it's the perfect example of a Nyah Nyah Play.

CECIL:  [CHUCKLING] A Nyah Nyah play?

BEENY:  A Nyah Nyah Play.

CECIL:  [SHAKING HIS HEAD] That's my girl.

BEENY:  A Nyah Nyah Play is where the audience doesn't know what the fuck is going on, there's like some important piece of information that is never revealed in the script but everybody up on stage knows what it is, so they stand up there and go "Nyah, nyah!" for two hours.  And it's like No Soap Radio, it's like the Emperor's New Clothes, because nobody wants to admit that they don't get it, so they praise it to the skies.  I mean look at these reviews.  "Searing."  "Heart-piercing."  "Haunting and original."  I mean who sucks these critics off?  The producer?  The producer's assistant?  Juilliard interns?  "Searing and heart-piercing" my ass, more like boring and ear-piercing.  "Mamet's most emotionally accessible drama," and that emotion is pride, because everybody in the fucking theatre from the blue-haired ladies unwrapping their hard candy to the fidgety fatso waiting for an opening to sneak into that front row seat, every paying attendee is glowing with pride as they walk out into the street because they're thinking to themselves, "Even I can write shit better than that."  Look at these reviews.  "Elegant and beautiful."  "Haunted and haunting."  "Riveting."  "Luminous."  What does luminous mean, anyway?

CECIL:  Glowing.

BEENY:  Glowing.

CECIL:  With a glow.

BEENY:  Yeah, like nuclear waste.  "A significant development in Mamet's career," well that's true, it's final proof that he's the artistic equivalent of an overdrawn bank account.

CECIL:  So the play, you didn't like it?

BEENY:  Play?--what play?--you can't call it a play, I mean you can build a boat and you can put it in your back yard and everybody from miles around can say, "Wow, what a great boat," but if it doesn't sail somewhere or even float in the water, then it's not a fucking boat, okay?  It has to go somewhere, in the water.  Like a play has to go somewhere, in the theatre--not in the head of the author, but on the fucking page so that it is crystal fucking clear to the dumbest member of the audience.  The only thing that was crystal fucking clear to me was that Mamet wrote this to make everybody think they were the dumbest fucking member of the audience.  I mean, look at whatsisname.  The main character.  The so-called main character.  He barely says two words together.

CECIL:  No, really?

BEENY:  And he's the main character.

CECIL:  [IMAGINE THAT] The main character.

BEENY:  All he says is Uh-huh.

CECIL:  Uh-huh.

BEENY: "Uh-huh."

CECIL:  Uh-huh.

BEENY:  And repeat everything.

CECIL: Repeat everything.

BEENY:  And I'm thinking, him you get a good actor, him you hire a fucking name actor, even though he just stands there with his fucking hands in his pockets.


BEENY:  And I'm sorry, but anybody else's name on this play--

CECIL: I know.

BEENY:  If I submitted this play with my name on it.

CECIL:  I know.

BEENY: You put my name on this script and send it to a producer and you know what happens?  They look at it and say, "What is this shit?"  They look at it and say, "This is not a play.  There's no pay-off, there's no story, the main character might as well be a Jewish Helen Keller he talks so little."  They say, "Listen, you want me to produce this play?  Give me a plot, give me a scene where more than one character shows up at the same time, give me more between the brother and the sister, and for Christ's sakes give me a fucking payoff in the last scene please.  Or at least make it bad actor proof."  But they don't say that to David Mamet. 

CECIL:  No they don't.

BEENY:  Oh no.  To me they would say it.  To anybody else in the world, but not to him.  To me, they would do me the courtesy of shaking their heads and sending the script back in the mail.  Which is exactly what happened.

CECIL:  You sent the script off?

BEENY:  I typed it up and mailed it out.

CECIL:  You didn't.

BEENY:  Yes I did.  I changed the character names, I set it in New York instead of Chicago, I put my name on it, and I called it 86TH STREET, y'know, like 86 this, 86 that.

CECIL:  Clever title.

BEENY:  It is, isn't it?

CECIL:  So what happened?

BEENY:  I'm telling you.

CECIL: So tell me.

BEENY:  Let me tell you.  I sent it out to twenty producers.

CECIL:  Twenty producers.

BEENY:  And they all sent it back with a form letter rejection.  All but one.  This one company, Hays & Thompson or Thompson and Hays, I can't remember, I don't know whether Hays read it or Thompson read it because between you and me it's a miracle if a script gets past these high school morons they use as readers these days, the ones who think a play is just a sitcom with profanity.  But somebody read it, because when I get this script back in the mail, you know what happens?

CECIL:  You got lucky?

BEENY:  Lucky; right.  I got a personalized rejection letter and you know what it said?  You know what I got?  "David Mamet does this much better."  That's what I got.

CECIL:  Which proves your point.

BEENY:  I'm just saying.

CECIL:  Game set and match.

BEENY:  What else am I saying?  The man has become a fucking cliché.  The Mamet play.  He's an adjective.  He's not a verb anymore.  He's dead and buried.  That's what a cliché is.  The tombstone on the grave of truth.  You had a great life and as a reward?--you get embalmed.  Like Lenin.  Or like that actress.  Talk about the bottom dropping out.  A broken elevator.  Zoom.  Next stop, the pits.  That's how bad she was.  Whatsername.

CECIL:  McCann.

BEENY:  McCann.

CECIL:  Mary McCann.

BEENY:  Mary McCann.

CECIL:  A name to remember.

BEENY:  A name to remember like a pothole, like don't drive down that way, there's a pothole.  Like don't see this play, there's a big pothole at the end.

CECIL:  She's not the original.

BEENY:  She's not.


BEENY:  Not the original.

CECIL:  No way.

BEENY:  Well it shows.

CECIL:  The original was his wife.

BEENY:  The director's wife.

CECIL:  The playwright's wife.  Pidgeon.

BEENY:  Pidgeon?

CECIL:  Pidgeon.

BEENY:  A name to remember. 

CECIL:  The writer's wife. 

BEENY:  Well of course.  This is Broadway.  That's the difference between Broadway and Hollywood.  In Broadway, the writer gets to cast whoever he's fucking.  In Hollywood he just gets fucked.  Well that's the answer then.  That's the answer then.  You want to get work?  Then someone has to fuck you.  Or you have to be the writer's wife. 

CECIL:  His second wife.

BEENY:  His trophy wife.  What happened to his first wife?  You don't hear much about his first wife do you.

CECIL:  She got old.

BEENY:  We all get old.

CECIL:  Did you ever think you would get this old?

BEENY:  Just thinking about that, it makes me old.  So who's she fucking?

CECIL:  Hmm?

BEENY:  The replacement actress.  The un-original.  The pothole.  Whose trophy actress is she?

CECIL:  You really think she has to be?  Somebody's trophy?

BEENY:  Well she can't act.  So what good is she?  I can act.  I could do that part.  I could bring a fucking purpose, I could give a destination to all that meandering.  I could make every syllable of Mamet's verbal jack-off look like sex.  But no.  "We don't want a talented person.  We just want the person we're sleeping with."  So okay then.  Who do I have to fuck?  Tell me.  I'll do it.  I give up.  If that's what it takes, then all I want to know is, who do I have to sleep with to get ahead in this fucking business? 


BEENY:  Shit!


Copyright 1997 Matthew J Wells

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