By David Mamet
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679746539, 112pp.)
Publication Date: April 18, 1995
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In this gripping short play, David Mamet combines mercurial intelligence with genuinely Hitchcockian menace. The Cryptogram is a journey back into childhood and the moment of its vanishing—the moment when the sheltering world is suddenly revealed as a place full of dangers.
On a night in 1959 a boy is waiting to go on a camping trip with his father. His mother wants him to go to sleep. A family friend is trying to entertain them—or perhaps distract them. Because in the dark corners of this domestic scene, there are rustlings that none of the players want to hear. And out of things as innocuous as a shattered teapot and a ripped blanket, Mamet re-creates a child terrifying discovery that the grownups are speaking in code, and that that code may never be breakable.
David Mamet was born in Chicago in 1947. He studied at Goddard College in Vermont and at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater in New York. He taught at Goddard College, the Yale Drama School, and New York University, and regularly lectures to classes at the Atlantic Theater Company, of which he is a founding member. He is the author of the acclaimed plays Oleanna, Speed-the-Plow, Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo, and Sexual Perversity in Chicago. He has also written screenplays for such films as Homicide, House of Games, and the Oscar-nominated The Verdict, four collections of essays, a novel, and a book of poems. His plays have won the Pulitzer Prize and the Obie Award.
“First-rate…spooky, elliptical, full of wit. . . . Not in any stage literature that I know has childhood been as movingly evoked as it is in The Cryptogram.” —Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“Heart stopping. . . . Where other dramatists are writing melodrama about the dysfunctional family, Mamet has written high tragedy.” —Iris Fanger, The Boston Herald
“Powerful. . . . His most personal work. . . . A whodunit with the it waiting to happen. . . . Spooky and exciting.” —Jack Kroll, Newsweek
“Daring, dark, complex, brilliant. . . . I suspect that in time it will take its place among Mamet’s major works.” —John Lahr, The New Yorker