Pulitzer Prize—winning playwright David Mamet’s Romance is an uproarious, take-no-prisoners courtroom comedy that gleefully lampoons everyone from lawyers and judges, to Arabs and Jews, to gays and chiropractors. It’s hay fever season, and in a courtroom a judge is popping antihistamines. He listens to the testimony of a Jewish chiropractor, who’s a liar, according to his anti-Semitic defense attorney. The prosecutor, a homosexual, is having a domestic squabble with his lover, ...
Pulitzer Prize—winning playwright David Mamet’s Romance is an uproarious, take-no-prisoners courtroom comedy that gleefully lampoons everyone from lawyers and judges, to Arabs and Jews, to gays and chiropractors.
It’s hay fever season, and in a courtroom a judge is popping antihistamines. He listens to the testimony of a Jewish chiropractor, who’s a liar, according to his anti-Semitic defense attorney. The prosecutor, a homosexual, is having a domestic squabble with his lover, who shows up in court in a leopard-print thong. And all the while, a Middle East peace conference is taking place. Masterfully wielding the argot of the courtroom, David Mamet creates a world in microcosm in which shameless fawning, petty prejudices, and sheer caprice hold sway, and the noble apparatus of law and order degenerates into riotous profanity.
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 has taught at Goddard College, the Yale School of Drama, and New York University, and lectures at the Atlantic Theater Company, of which he is a founding member. He is the author of the plays The Cryptogram, Oleanna, Speed-the-Plow, Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo, and Sexual Perversity in Chicago. He has also written screenplays for such films as House of Games and the Oscar-nominated The Verdict, as well as The Spanish Prisoner, The Winslow Boy, and Wag the Dog. His plays have won the Pulitzer Prize and the Obie Award.
The judge is on the bench. The defendant is being interrogated by a prosecutor. The defense attorney sits at the defense bench. A bailiff stands at the side.
prosecutor: Who is this . . . ?
(All turn to sound of siren-as of motorcade passing in the streets.)
prosecutor: Who is the person in the hotel room?
defendant: I have no idea.
prosecutor: You were there. You were seen there.
defendant: By whom?
prosecutor: Just answer the question please.
defendant: Then, please may I be addressed with one? (Pause) Would you please address me with a question? (Pause) "You were seen there" is not a question.
prosecutor: Just answer the question as you've been directed.
defendant: Well, you ask the questions, and I will attempt to answer them.
defense attorney: Your Honor, my client is endeavoring . . .
prosecutor: Excuse me?
defense attorney: . . . to respond to the questions.
prosecutor: Oh, please . . .
defense attorney: "Oh, please?" Your Honor? I must object. This scurrilous, this sad . . .
prosecutor: May we be spared the . . .
defense attorney: This sense of "weariness," this false, adopted, what is it? A "charade"? A "vaudeville" . . . ?
prosecutor: Your Honor, I object, I most strenuously object.
judge: One moment. May we not have Peace? (Pause) Is that such a strange word? You will forgive me if I pontificate a moment. Will you? If I speak of Peace. Is that not the theme of the week?
prosecutor: It is the theme of the weak. The theme of the strong, Your Honor, if I may, is truth.
judge: Yes. Thank you. The theme of this week. This week's theme. Is it not peace? If not, why are they gathered here? Why are they all come here, if not for peace?
prosecutor: It is a signal Honor, may it please the court. To welcome them.
(Sound of sirens. All listen.)
judge: And there they go. And there they go. The great men. On their way to the Peace Conference . . .
judge: Mark your calendars, people. It's a Red Letter Day.
judge: Indeed it is.
defense attorney: Indeed it is.
judge: It Honors our fair city, and it Honors us. To see those who have come so far. (He sneezes.)
judge: Thank you. And. On our way to work today. The faces. Lining the streets. Perhaps you saw them? This man or that woman. Enemies, perhaps, certainly no more than strangers. Reaching out. Because of our Visitors. Yes. Yes. We have strife. But, but, their presence here . . . (Almost sneezes, but holds it) I'm sorry, did I take my pill?
bailiff: You did, Your Honor.
judge: Thank you. Instructs us, that perhaps, the aim of strife is not Victory. No, but simple peace.
judge: (Pause) I'm sorry to've taken your time. Continue. (Pause)
prosecutor: Thank you, Your Honor . . . did you contact . . . ?
prosecutor: I must ask you to . . . refrain from interrupting.
defendant: Might I have a glass of water?
judge: Get him a glass of water.
defendant: Thank you, Your Honor.
(The bailiff brings the defendant a glass of water.)
prosecutor: Let me begin again. Did you physically contact a person in Room . . .
judge: . . . and could someone get my pill, please . . . ?
bailiff: Your Honor, you've taken your pill.
judge: I took my pill?
bailiff: Your Honor, yes.
prosecutor: Do you require me to repeat the definition of "contact"?
defendant: I do not.
prosecutor: I will ask you once again. Do you require me to repeat the definition?
judge: I took my pill, then why do I have to sneeze?
(The bailiff brings a vial of pills. The judge sneezes.)
bailiff: Gesundheit, Your Honor.
defense attorney: Gesundheit.
judge: Thank you.
prosecutor: Your Honor, I do not wish to descend to the "picayune," but as my colleague has wished you Gesundheit, I feel that I must wish you Gesundheit.
judge: Thank you.
prosecutor: In fairness to the State.
judge: Thank you.
judge: Thank you. (Pause) Where were we?
prosecutor: (To the defendant) Do you require me to repeat the definition of . . .
judge: Because, I don't know about you people, but I'm moved. Yes. Yes. One becomes callous. But yes, again, we may learn. When we see Two Warring Peoples, Arabs and Jews, an Ancient Enmity. Opposed since Bible times, I'm sorry. I'm moved. Did anyone see the parade?
defendant: I did, Your Honor.
prosecutor: I did, Your Honor, too.
judge: I was moved, I'm sorry. (Sneezes)
all: (Pause) Gesundheit.
prosecutor: All right. You are a chiropodist, are you not?
defendant: I am not.
prosecutor: Your Honor, I ask that the defendant be instructed to . . .
defendant: I am a chiropractor.
prosecutor: I beg your pardon, I intended to say chiropractor. You are a chiropractor, are you not?
defendant: I am.
judge: And I would like to apologize for being late.
defense attorney: Not at all, Your Honor.
judge: You people are giving up your time, I see no reason why I should subject you to any further, uh, uh . . .
prosecutor: Not at all, Your Honor.
defense attorney: That's very gracious of you.
judge: Curiously, I was late because of the parade. I took my pill, but I could not remember if I had taken my pill. As they do tend to make one groggy. So I returned to my house. To, to, to take my "pill"; which rendered me late as, on my leaving the house, I encountered the Parade. (Pause) I would have been on time if not for the . . . (Pause)
defense attorney: Of course, Your Honor.
judge: Parade. A policeman. Stopped them, for a moment. Just to let me through. He didn't have to do that. He had no idea who I am. Call me a Weepy Old Fool. (Pause)
prosecutor: All right. When, could you tell me, please, did you last leave the country?
defendant: Thank you, Your Honor, for the water.
judge: I need a glass of water, too.
(bailiff goes for the glass of water.)
prosecutor: When did you last leave the country?
judge: Because I have to take my pill.
defendant: This country?
judge: I mentioned the parade.
prosecutor: Indeed, Your Honor did. (Pause)
prosecutor: (To the defendant) Is this your signature?
defendant: (Pause) I do not know.
prosecutor: Does it appear to be your signature? (Pause)
defendant: I don't know.
judge: So many people. But, I suppose, that's the nature of a parade.
(A slight susurrus of appreciation)
prosecutor: Surely you know if it's your signature?
defendant: I . . .
prosecutor: Is it like your signature?
prosecutor: In what way? (Pause)
defendant: . . . it is written . . . it is written similarly to my signature . . .
prosecutor: It is . . . (Pause)
defendant: I just said so.
prosecutor: Similarly to your signature. Fine.
judge: I guess what I am trying to say is this: We get caught up in the "form," the Law, Religion, Nationality . . . uh . . . skin color. And then, and then, miraculously, miraculously, now and then, and by the grace of God, we are free. And see, that, underneath, we love each other.
judge: That two world leaders, steeped in enmity . . . (Pause)
prosecutor: Momentous days, Your Honor.
defense attorney: Yes, momentous days, Your Honor.
judge: I think we can so stipulate.
(Laughter from the two attorneys.)
judge: And I'm not even Jewish . . .
prosecutor: On the date in question . . .
judge: You know, I'd like to take that back. I don't even know why I say "not even." I believe a more "neutral" expression might have been "And I'm not Jewish." (Pause) Proceed.
prosecutor: How does this signature differ from your signature? (Pause)
defendant: I don't know.
prosecutor: You said this resembles your signature In Part.
defendant: I did . . .
prosecutor: Let me suggest to you that I would like you to inform me in what way this differs from your signature. (Pause)
defendant: I don't know.
prosecutor: Then would you say they are the same?
judge: One moment.
prosecutor: Yes, Your Honor.
judge: The pills, I believe, have made me "drowsy," and I beg your pardon, but, if you'd indulge me: What is the difference, between a chiropodist and a chiropractor?
defendant: A chiropractor aligns the spine, to create both physical and spiritual harmony.
judge: And the other fellow?
defendant: He rubs people's feet.
judge: For pay? (Pause)
defendant: Yes, Your Honor.
judge: And you're which, now?
defense attorney: Your Honor, my client is a chiropractor. (Pause)
prosecutor: All right. Do you deny this is your signature?
defendant: May I have a moment? (He goes into conference with his attorney.)
judge: (To bailiff) Jimmy: Is it hot in here?
bailiff: Would Your Honor like the window opened?
defendant: I can neither deny nor affirm that signature is mine.
prosecutor: What would assist you?
(Pause. Conference between defendant and his attorney)
judge: No, no, I think I prefer the heat to the noise.
defendant: I cannot say that there is any thing which would assist me.
judge: Because it's noisy. Well it's noisier because of the parade . . . (Pause) So much of life is a choice, between the lesser of two evils. (Pause) I suppose that's what I'm here for . . .
all: (Dutiful laughter)
judge: They rub people's feet for "pay."
defendant: Yes. Your Honor.
judge: Ah, well . . .
defendant: I quite agree, Your Honor. (Pause)
prosecutor: I have here a document, which bears your signature. Do you recognize it?
defendant: It is a check.
prosecutor: It is one of your checks. It bears your account number. Your name is printed on it. It was signed by you. Do you . . . and it was honored by the bank. Do you acknowledge it to be your signature? Let me put it differently: Do you dispute it?
defendant: May I have a rest?
prosecutor: Do you dispute it? A check. In the amount of this credit card bill. The bill contains a charge for two airfares. Here is the credit card slip. Signed by you.
judge: You know . . .
prosecutor: Your Honor, if I might continue, here is the check signed by you. Both signatures were accepted as valid, one by the travel agency, one by the bank. You disputed neither.
defendant: I might have gone to Hawaii.
defendant: But that would not be said to be leaving the country.
prosecutor: Perhaps you would confine yourself to responding to my questions.
defendant: It is not leaving the country.
prosecutor: What is not?
defendant: A trip to Hawaii.
prosecutor: You went to Hawaii?
defendant: I did not say that.
prosecutor: Yes you did.
defendant: But . . . but . . . might I . . . might I finish? Might I finish? Might I have an opportunity to explain myself? Do you think? In the midst of this, this . . . in the midst of this inquisition? (Pause) Do you think? As one human being, speaking to another? I might do that?
prosecutor: Might I suggest if you wish to have the proceedings terminated happily and quickly you might do well to respond to my questions? Now. Did you, in the months in question, leave the Mainland?
defendant: (Pause) I do not recall.
prosecutor: He does not recall.
judge: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. My mind was drifting. He does not recall what?
prosecutor: If he left the Mainland.
judge: Isn't that something one would know?
prosecutor: I quite agree, Your Honor.
judge: Don't you know, son, if you left the Mainland?
defendant: I don't recall, sir.
prosecutor: What would assist you?
defendant: I don't know.
prosecutor: Let me understand you: you do not know if . . .
defendant: I don't know. Yes.
prosecutor: If you left the Mainland.
judge: The Mainland of what, please? (Pause)
prosecutor: Of, of the Continent.
judge: And he doesn't know that . . . ?
defendant: That is right. (Pause)
prosecutor: Do you feel. Let me put it differently: In your experience in this . . . is such a recollection within the abilities of a reasonable man? (Pause)
defendant: I don't understand.
prosecutor: . . . I withdraw the question. And I ask you at this point, if you are suggesting Mental Incapacity.
defense attorney: Your Honor . . .
prosecutor: Do you suggest your inability to retain a date, or movement on your part, over the course of a year, do you put it forth as evidence of Mental Incapacity? Yes or no.
defense attorney: Your Honor, please, this is unnecessary. This is . . .
defendant: If I asked you:
prosecutor: I beg your pardon, I am not the issue here.
defendant: If I asked anyone. (Pause) Some . . . some. Would have a . . . how can you say it is Mental Incapacity? That's, that's. Vicious. To offer that, excuse me, sir, that's . . . anyone might. Misremember, or . . .
judge: That's correct . . .
judge: Yes, in a busy life . . .
prosecutor: . . . anyone might disremember . . .
defendant: Or have difficulty remembering . . .
prosecutor: Yes . . .
defendant: A date, or . . . that, that . . . that is, just . . .
prosecutor: You're saying that's Human Nature.
judge: That is Human Nature. Fellas. Just this morning, I, uh . . . (Pause) People Forget.
prosecutor: You've said that you have difficulty with your memory. That's right. It is Human Nature. Yes. It is. How does one deal with it?
judge: Is it hot in here? (Lays his head down on the desk.)
defendant: One, one has, they have Agendas, or . . .
prosecutor: People have difficulty remembering, so they have Agendas.
prosecutor: Which they would trust more than their recollections.
defendant: Yes. That is the purpose of them.
prosecutor: That they would prefer notations on a scrap of paper.
defendant: As you know.
judge: (Lifts his head up) If we could move it along, gentlemen, I am not feeling too . . .
prosecutor: . . . if it please the court.
judge: I find I'm not feeling too well.
prosecutor: With the Court's Pardon, if I might, the one instant . . .
judge: I found that my mind was drifting. That's not like me.
defendant: Many times, Your Honor, sitting for long periods stresses the spine and induces a decrease in the fluid of the dural matter which may cause lapses in attention.
judge: Yes, you bet, but, in truth? I thought I'd step down, just . . . just . . . (He sneezes.)
bailiff: Gesundheit, Your Honor . . .
judge: Thank you. To be a part of the parade. Do you know, just to be a part of it. I wonder if the pollen in the elm trees near the consulate exacerbated my attack.
defendant: Is it elm to which Your Honor is allergic?
judge: Do they have "pollen"? I suppose they'd have to, as they're "trees." They're "trees," right, Jimmy? They're "trees"? Right, "elm trees."
bailiff: Your Honor?
judge: Well, they say tomatoes are a fruit.
prosecutor: Might we, with respect to the court, confine and limit our attention to the . . .
judge: Quite quite right. I beg your pardon.
prosecutor: I will be brief.
judge: It stuck in my mind, because I have an allergy to Pollen.
prosecutor: I . . .
judge: I'm not feeling well, and, in fact, I think I'd like to call a recess.
prosecutor: One moment, Your Honor, please, is all I ask.
judge: Is there, um, pollen, in the elm?
prosecutor: I don't know, Your Honor.
judge: Or is that just a thing we associate with "bees." (Pause)
prosecutor: (To defendant) I ask you to turn your attention to this document, and to identify it for me, please. (Pause) Would you identify it for me, please? Is this your agenda? For the year in question?