Plays by David Mamet

The Shawl

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Shawl is a fascinating play about mysticism, magic and deceit, in which an apparent clairvoyant named John, shows his lover, Charles, how he manages the tricks and sleights of hand of his dubious profession. Charles suggests that they use these techniques to con his latest client, Miss A, out of a recent inheritance. But in playing the con, and maximising the deceit, John, Charles and Miss A stumble upon the mystery at the heart of the difference between fact and fiction.

Reviewing a 2009 revival at the Arcola Theatre, London, Michael Billington wrote in the Guardian: 'The play works well for a number of reasons: it creates doubt; it suggests, like Jonson's Volpone and The Alchemist, that the conman depends on the psychological need of the victim to be gulled; and it makes good use of Mamet's trademark technique of creating a musical rhythm out of the ellipses of everyday speech . . . It's a wonderful play that acts as a metaphor for the theatrical process itself'.

The Shawl was first performed at the Goodman Theater's New Theater Company in Chicago on April 19 1985 in a production directed by Gregory Mosher. The UK premiere followed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs on 9 June 1986, directed by Richard Eyre.

audio Speed the Plow

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Jaded Hollywood producer Bobby Gould has spent a career reaping what others sow, until the night he’s forced to choose between his loyal friend’s sure-fire hit and a beautiful girl’s art-house project. During a wicked evening of seduction and manipulation, Bobby discovers that the power he exerts is more elusive than it seems.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jeff Goldblum, Adam Arkin and Dina Waters.

Featuring: Jeff Goldblum, Adam Arkin, Dina Waters


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When Fox comes up with a brilliant idea for a movie, he and Gould think they’ve made it. For one blissful day the world seems about to open its arms to embrace them. Gould assures that he will bring the movie forward to the board for production, and Fox goes away happy. But when a side-bet between Fox and Gould about Gould's attractive assistant Karen ends with Gould being evangelised to an alternative vision of the world, Gould is brought to the precipice of throwing his – and Fox’s – opportunity aside.

The play was very well received when it was first presented; the New York Post wrote that it was ‘crammed with wonderful, dazzling, brilliant lines like a plum pudding with fruit, like a gagbook full of jokes. A harvest of riches. Mamet here is so damned entertaining – I laughed and laughed.’ while Newsweek called it ‘a brilliant black comedy, a dazzling dissection of Hollywood cupidity and another tone poem from our foremost master of the language of moral epilepsy.’

Speed-the-Plow was first presented in a New York Broadway production by Lincoln Center Theater at the Royale Theater, opening on May 3, 1988, in a production directed by Gregory Mosher.


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

First produced by the St. Nicholas Theatre Company in Chicago in 1974, Squirrels is a short play about an older writer, Arthur, his newest recruit, Edmond, and the unnamed cleaner with whom they strike up an artistic friendship.

Art, his career on the downturn, is obsessed with including squirrels in his prose – an obsession from which Ed is desperate to steer away. Every evening, once Art and Ed have gone home after a day of throwing ideas and paragraphs around to little effect, the Cleaning Woman writes down her own superior ideas for Art to find, crumpled up in the wastepaper basket, in the morning.

The Water Engine: An American Fable

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It is 1934, and Charles Lang has invented an engine that runs solely on water. Attorneys Morton Gross and Lawrence Oberman see an opportunity to make themselves rich off the back of Lang’s ingenuity, blackmailing him into handing over the patent for his invention. When his sister Rita urges him not to give in to the bullies, Lang’s quest for justice ends in tragedy.

First produced as a radio drama for NPR, The Water Engine was first performed onstage by the St. Nicholas Theatre Company, Chicago, in 1977, before transferring to the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway the following year. It was produced at the Hampstead Theatre, London, in 1989.

The Woods

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In The Woods, David Mamet shows us one evening, night and morning in the life of a couple, Nick and Ruth, who are spending some time in a summerhouse. As they pass the time, sharing stories and arguments, the mechanics of their relationship – and by implication, the relationships between women and men generally – come into focus.

The play has been praised by the New York Times, who wrote ‘Mamet's language has never been so precise, pure and affecting’. It was first produced by the St Nicholas Theatre Company, Chicago on 11 November 1977, in a production directed by the playwright.

Picture of David Mamet

David Mamet (Playwright) plays by David Mamet include: The Penitent, China Doll, The Anarchist, Race, Keep Your Pantheon, School, November, Romance, Boston Marriage, Faustus, Oleanna, Glengarry Glen Ross (1984 Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award), American Buffalo, The Old Neighborhood, A Life in the Theatre, Speed-the-Plow, Edmond, Lakeboat, The Water Engine, The Woods, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Reunion and The Cryptogram (1995 Obie Award). His translations and adaptations include: Faustus and Red River by Pierre Laville; and The Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekov. His films include: The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Verdict, The Untouchables, House of Games (writer/director), Oleanna (writer/director), Homicide (writer/director), The Spanish Prisoner (writer/ director), Heist (writer/director), Spartan (writer/director) and Redbelt (writer/director). Mr. Mamet is also the author of: Warm and Cold, a book for children with drawings by Donald Sultan, and two other children's books, Passover and The Duck and the Goat; Writing in Restaurants, Some Freaks, and Make-Believe Town, three volumes of essays; The Hero Pony and The China Man, a book of poems; Three Children's Plays, On Directing Film, The Cabin, and the novels The Village, The Old Religion and Wilson. His other books include the acting books, True & False and Three Uses of the Knife, Bambi vs. Godzilla, The Secret Knowledge, The Wicked Son, Theatre, and Three War Stories.