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.
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October 24, 2005
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Excerpt from Romance by David Mamet
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.