One night in 1959, a boy, John, is preparing to go on a camping trip with his father. Getting his things ready, he listens to the conversations of his mother, Donny, and a family friend, Del. What unfolds is a mysterious drama of half-spoken sentences and semi-remembered moments all circling around an opaque instance of childhood grief.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Charles Spenser wrote that 'The Cryptogram powerfully pins down that moment when childish innocence gives way to adult knowledge, the moment when we recognise that the world can be a terryfying place. And as the meaning of Mamet's crypttogram sinks in, with its heart-rending depiction of our fall from grace, you find yourself assailtd by grief – both the author's and your own.'
The Cryptogram received its world premiere at the Ambassadors Theatre, London, on 29 June 1994. Its US premiere followed at the American Repertory Theatre, Massachusetts, on 2 February 1995.