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The Cryptogram. Paperback – January 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Dramatists Play Service, Inc. (January 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822214954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822214953
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“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
  --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

In this gripping family tragedy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Glengarry Glen Ross endows ordinary language with Hitchcockian menace and Kafkaesque powers of disorientation. This intriguing play 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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By "syc658" on June 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's too bad this doesn't get the same recognition that Mamet's other works, esp. Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, and American Buffalo get. I can only agree with the critic cited on the back who believes that "in time it will take its place among Mamet's major works."
Whereas so many of Mamet's other plays seem to be about the same thing but just given different titles (again, StP, GGR, AB) -- and don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the "F***ing Master," as David Ives refers to him, but think about it, I'm right! -- The Crypotogram is completely uncharacteristic Mamet. It isn't necessarily doing what Mamet does best i.e. capitalism, but nonetheless, I think it's breathtaking.
The construction of the Cryptogram seems so fragile. As only Mamet can do with language, such a compelling spell is created, and it's undeniably intriguing -- the different worlds of adult language vs. children's language. Who has even given such thought to the idea? The idea that "grownups are speaking in code, and that that code may never be breakable" is established so subtly that at first I thought I missed it, I kept waiting for some more concrete dividing line -- but therein is Mamet's gift. To actually hear the language that Del and Donny speak as an adult, while simultaneously imagining hearing it as John might reveals this "code," and it is somewhat unsettling -- just the idea that such a difference exists. Certainly a clever illustration not only of how language can be interpreted differently, but of language's power in general -- to empower, persuade, dissuade, enlighten, shield, to keep in the dark, to be used as a weapon, or as defense, to conceal, and to reveal.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Ott VINE VOICE on March 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a strange, elliptical play. I did not enjoy it as much as some of the other Mamet maniacs here, but I will admit that, in the months since I've read it, I just can't get it out of my head.
A lot of this play exists in the subtext of the language and in Mamet's clever "uses of the knife." Since it is very hard to imagine it off the page, much of the time it seems like nothing is happening. I would like to see the play performed, but I think it is unlikely. Finding a ten-year-old who can pull off such a complicated role is probably too much of a headache for most theater producers.
This play is, yes, different than a Glen Garry or American Buffalo. But it is still full of Mamet. If the maestro floats your boat, go for it.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John246@ibm.net on January 31, 1998
Format: Paperback
Amazing! I've read it through 8 or 9 times and keep rediscovering more of the mysteries imbedded in this complex work. Mamet peruses the rhythmic dialogue he explored in Oleanna, with a complementary view on the intellect of a 10 year old child. Act 1 involves the child's insomnia as he prepares for a camping trip with his father, whom is very late in coming home from the office. As the story progresses the boys restlessness becomes frenzied, while the mother discusses old times with a friend of the family. Past reflections turn to indictments and evidence, as the fathers absence becomes menacing. And old friend may not be what they seem. A MUST READ!
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Format: Paperback
The Cryptogram is outstanding. There are only three characters (that's good for Readers' Theater): a mother, a young boy who is waiting for his father to return and take him on a camping trip, and the mother's and father's gay friend who lives in a motel nearby. The father isn't going to return. For the past week, he's been banging someone in the friend's motel room while the friend hung out elsewhere. When the mother finds out that the friend has deceived her, she flips, but the news about her husband isn't really that surprising.

At the center of the play is the boy and his reaction to his world crumbling around him. With oblique nudges, Mamet lays bare the young child's feelings --inchoate fears and anxieties-- as he waits for a father who will never return. It's prime Mamet --clipped dialogue, emotions hinted as often as laid out on the table. The play would be fun to do: there's not much action. But where would you get a kid who could make so intense but oblique a role believable? It's a difficult role.
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By Gordon Fowler on July 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mamet dialogues are almost always fun. There are some plays that can be read and enjoyed. This is not one of them.
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