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On Theater and Magic: David Mamet and Ricky Jay at Largo Last Week

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To say that David Mamet is a polarizing figure in Hollywood is an understatement--like when Google says that it'll take 20 minutes to get from Koreatown to Santa Monica on most given afternoons.

After Thursday night at Largo, which was ostensibly for Mamet to promote two new books (Theatre and The Trials of Roderick Spode ["The Human Ant"], he's probably not going to shake that rep. He was brutally opinionated--and just like many of his characters--peppered his remarks with a colorful four-letter word to describe certain people he's met through the years. How about this gem? When Martin Scorsese asked Mamet to rework a script, he recalled, "I told Scorcese to go f-ck himself...he took it the wrong way." The pro-Mamet audience that packed Largo that night ate up every word.

Mamet was joined onstage by his longtime friend, magician Ricky Jay, who was supposed to moderate the discussion and interview Mamet, but the writer eased into a dominant role and Jay was happy to play sidekick while listening to Mamet throw out such zingers and pontifications like calling writing the process of "reminiscing about myself" and that "acting can't be taught." He also briefly talked about an upcoming Funny or Die project, and though we're not sure exactly what or when it will be released, we swear we heard "Anita Hill" and "fluffer" in the same sentence.

The discussion specifically turned briefly to Mamet's recently published books, which are on wildly diverse topics. Theatre (Faber & Faber) focuses on theories on what theater is, what it should be, what works and what doesn't, according to Mamet. And The Trials of Roderick Spode The Human Ant (Sourcebooks, Incorporated) is a bizarre little comic story of Roderick Spode, a man who gets a little drunk and steps into a booth that gives out special powers. The booth turns Roderick into an ant half the time. The doodles aren't the best drawn material, but it's fascinating to see Mamet's mind at work in another medium.

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But back to more important and entertaining things from the night--like what Mamet didn't like about theater: Plays without plots; subscription theaters and The House of f-ing Bernarda Alba. We were starting to wonder, though, if there were anything he did like about theater. Then we heard it with our own ears: John Patrick Shanley (Doubt) you have a fan in David Mamet--at least for now.