Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dramatic Inspiration

I recently viewed a local production of David Mamet's American Buffalo, a play which concerns the lives of two marginalized men.  Don, a somewhat avuncular figure, owns a dilapidated pawnshop in a seedy Chicago neighborhood.  Don's friend Teach is a loose cannon and a misanthrope.  A third character named Bob hangs around the shop and figures prominently at the play's conclusion.

Through vulgar, serpentine exchanges between this two men, we learn of their associations, their aspirations, and their desperation.  Additionally, we learn that a wealthy coin collector recently purchased  a rare coin from Don for far less than it is worth.  Don and Bob plan to get even with the man by stealing his coin collection.  As their plan germinates, Teach does his utmost to convince Don to nix Bob from the plan and use him and another associate named Fletch.

To me, this play is perfect fodder for a city campaign.  Without being heavy handed, it highlights the disparity between the rich and poor.  The fact that one is never introduced to the wealthy collector signifies a great deal. Teach and Don are so far removed from this other world that they may as well cease to exist.  In point of fact, the play closes with Teach tearing the pawnshop apart.  Perhaps these characters are undergoing the process of annihilation .  It reminds me, on some level, of the conclusion of the novel One-Hundred Years of Solitude.  In the case of Marquez's masterpiece, the characters literally cease to exist at novel's conclusion.  For that matter, an entire culture is destroyed.  I could carry on and on about this play.  I have only seen one live production, and I've watched the movie once or twice.  Dennis Franz and Dustin Hoffman are great in the film adaptation, but I liked the theatrical version better.

I digress, however.  In Hrulvir, the rich and the poor are precipitously juxtaposed.  Poor neighborhoods slash through rich ones, and vice versa.  Just as we see in our own society, the well-heeled will literally step over the least fortunate. The darkly-clan Ravens drive the poor into the filth of the back alleys.  Obviously, the meaner classes resent the wealthy, and this animosity often leads to violence.

With that said, David Mamet's depiction of the downtrodden in American Buffalo and my geeky homebrew setting differ in that there are no demons for Don and Teach to bind and summon to improve their lot in life.  Unlike the heroic characters that populate my setting, violence has immediate and very real repercussions for the flawed individuals inhabiting Mamet's world.  It would be facile of me to assert that Don and Teach are victims of their own circumstances.  That is obvious.  I think that they are also victims of themselves.  Tragically, they have nothing but themselves to rely on, and, as American Buffalo reveals, sometimes that is not enough.

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