Win some…lose some. Probably no one is feeling the full truth of this saying more than the playwright David Mamet. Right now, he has both a hit and a flop debuting on Broadway. The hit is a revival of his Pulitzer Price-winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross; it stars Al Pacino and some tickets are going for almost $400 a pop. A few doors down from the powerhouse revival about conniving salesmen is the flop: The soon-to-be-closing play called The Anarchist. The play stars Patti LuPone and Debra Winger in an intense dialogue about crime and punishment. The reviews have been, well let’s just say that some of them have been less than charitable.
David Mamet has stellar company in the hard-knocks department. Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee all enjoyed tremendous success as award-winning playwrights, but also had some of their work roundly panned by critics. Other writers who know all too well how hard it is to bring a play to life, have been far kinder in discussing the rise and fall of David Mamet’s theatrical star. Tony Kushner, who won a Pulitzer for Angels in America, said, “He’s had a huge influence on American playwriting, including my own work.”
My goal here is not to add more fuel to this fire, but to remind us all that even we;;-respected and celebrated writers take a flyer now and then: it comes with the territory. If you’re not willing to get out of your comfort zone, then you’ll never do anything truly innovative. And if you push yourself beyond that comfort zone, it’s more than likely that sometimes, you’ll fall off a cliff.
But here’s the good news: you can climb back up. Fortunes rise and fall — and rise again. After his phenomenal success with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Edward Albee wrote a number of duds in the 1980s, but he came back strong in the 1990s. So let’s offer David Mamet some tea and sympathy: Playwrighting is a very public endeavor and if David’s brave enough to put himself out there, then he deserves our support and good wishes.
Write on, David, write on!