Act Like a Man: Challenging Masculinities in American Drama by Robert Vorlicky

By Robert Vorlicky

How males converse with one another on degree whilst no girls are present--and what it tells us approximately strength and gender

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Additional info for Act Like a Man: Challenging Masculinities in American Drama

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O'Neill's Hughie is historically important in its depiction of this level of interaction. The play is the first critically acknowl- edged male-cast play that utilizes the dynamic of uncooperative communication as its essential source of dramatic form and con- tent. It is the first play to dramatize in an everyday setting men struggling to engage topics that differ from those within the the- matic of the American masculine ethos. The characters strain to communicate, particularly on a personal level, resorting to an inter- play of monologues and sustained silence as a way to fill time and space.

In Mamet's male America, after all, such fictions reinforce repressive cultural ideology in general, and the gender-privileged masculine ethos in particular. In turn, each stimulates restrictive social constructions of gender and identity. Bigsby's suggestion that a belief in these fictions is "potentially redemptive" for Mamet's men seems to move beyond what the dialogue and discourse coherence of the play finally indicate. What is the possible object of the salesmen's redemption? Based upon what the men say to one another in acts 1 and 2, they perceive redemption as individual success in achieving their immediate eco- nomic wishes, success that, as dramatically rendered in the play, perpetuates the gender-restrictive principles of the masculine ethos.

Tempted by avarice, this decentered man becomes a postmodern everyman in Mamet's contemporary moral- ity play; he appears to be the central, pivotal character around whom the play's construction and (cultural) ideology develop. As the everyman figure, Aaronow initially wields a great deal of power-especially in the spectator's identification with him-in terms of the significance of the choices he makes. He is free in Mamet's democratic dramatic world to choose whatever he wants: he can either agree or disagree with Moss, the vocal defender of a kind of male power that is essentially based on economic reward through violence.

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