Spoiled Children of Divorce

Another Great SN&L Skit: “The New Boyfriend Talk Show”

A couple of weeks ago comic actress Jane Lynch hosted Saturday Night Live and played in a great skit called “The New Boyfriend Talk Show.”

Andy Samberg plays the son/”talk show host” who sits at the breakfast table and interviews his single Mother’s dates the morning after.   The boyfriends stand on the left side of the screen while they realize what situation they just stuck themselves into.  Samberg plays a plastic kid who just sits there and takes it.  Jane Lynch is in her bathrobe and I don’t know what she said, in those situations you just sort of start to wonder what’s going on beneath the robe, if anything.  The whole vibe is stupid and totally realistic.

“Memory House”
February 12, 2008, 7:44 am
Filed under: Plays about growing up in Divorce, Uncategorized

“Memory House” is a play by Kathleen Tolan about a Mother and Daughter dealing with Divorce along with the daughter’s foreign adoption and other issues.

Here’s a description from http://www.theatrezone.org/productions/past/memoryhouse/memoryhouse.htm

It’s New Year’s Eve. Maggie, a former dancer turned office worker, attempts to bake a blueberry pie. Her only child, Russian-born Katia, struggles to write an autobiographical college application essay. As the clock ticks down to the essay’s midnight postmark deadline, they engage in a tense standoff over their differing philosophies of life. Unexamined issues of the girl’s adoption from a Russian orphanage, her parents divorce, and the fear of leaving home break through the surface as the mother cajoles, deflects, and maneuvers around her own feelings of loss.

In this 90 minute play, the baking of the pie takes place in real time on stage, as does the unfolding of this intimate story. Prize-winning playwright Kathleen Tolan examines the complex negotiations that characterize the relationship between parents and teenage children, the global ties that connect adopted children with birth places and international events, and the anguish and guilt we feel when we know our actions have or will hurt someone we love


Exemplary Children of Divorce – David Mamet & Superman

Writer and Director, David Mamet’s parents divorced when he was 11 years old. Mamet has received the Pulitzer Prize for his play Glengary Glen Ross about 4 real estate salesmen and is known for his portrayal of gritty American life.

Mamet is divorced himself and has two children from his first marriage (Zosia & Willa) and two from his second marriage. This is an interesting biography of his childhood where his sister, also a playwright, describes their parents’ divorce and the two siblings’ different reactions:

“There was a lot of violence, but the greatest violence was emotional.”

Mamet has been involved in two marriages. The first time to Lindsay Crouse who starred in House of Games. They have two daughters together, Willa and Zosia. Now teen-agers, they reside with their mother in California. His second and current marriage is to Rebecca Pidgeon, who has acted in his productions of The Water Engine (1992), Homicide (1991), and The Winslow Boy (1999), as well as the original theatre production of Oleanna. She also composed the music for the film version of Oleanna. She is a well-known singer/songwriter in the pop/folk music world, and that she has even co-written some songs with her husband. They have one daughter, Clara now six. They have houses in Vermont and Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

He has a sister, Lynn Mamet, who also shares her brothers’ passion as a screenwriter, and a half-brother Tony Mamet, who is a musician and actor. 

Mamet’s childhood years were not what one would call normal. His mother, Lenore Mamet, left her husband, a labor lawyer, for one of his colleagues, and the two children (David and Lynn) lived with their mother and stepfather until young David had had enough and moved in with his father. In neither household however, did there seem to be a respite from the burden of trying to please the apparently unappeasable adults.

“Suffice it to say we are not the victims of a happy childhood,” Lynn Mamet said. “There was a lot of violence, but the greatest violence was emotional. It was emotional terrorism. In my estimation we are survivors of a travel route that included a 1950’s version of Dachau and Bergen-Belson, and that we both still bear the numbers on our arms. In that sense, when [Mamet] writes, he wears short sleeves.” 

As close as the two siblings are – “ I would take a bullet for him,” Lynn Mamet professes- their experiences were not the same. Where her brother grew up loving and admiring their real father, Bernard, who died nearly eight years ago, she always hated him. She, on the other hand, has forgiven her stepfather; while her brother has not. 

One last thought on Lynn and David Mamets life, spoken by Lynn Mamet: “In dealing with our demons, we have identified different people as the devil. My response to that is it doesn’t matter who we single out; there was a devil, and as a result we will never run out of stories. The very thing that could have destroyed us and driven us to silence ultimately led us to open our veins on white bond and make a living.”


Mamet has written a play about the effects of Divorce on Children from the Child’s point of view. Synopsis and some interesting criticisms of the play from http://www.londontheatre.co.uk/londontheatre/reviews/cryptogram06.htm.

Synopsis: John cannot sleep. He’s afraid to go to sleep. He doesn’t understand what is happening or why his father hasn’t returned home. David Mamet’s unsettling elliptical play charts the breakdown of a family, pinpointing the moment when childhood finally vanishes.

What the critics had to say…..
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, “A cryptogram is something written-in cipher, requiring a key. Yet for all the air of mystique that foggily swirls around the play there is no disguising its blatant, melodramatic underpinning. In three scenes and 65 minutes Mamet advances from scenes of comfortable domesticity to fury, tears and delusions. ” MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, “On a first viewing, in 1994, I took David Mamet’s cryptic 65-minute play to be about betrayal. Now, in Josie Rourke’s fine revival, it seems to be more about the corruption of innocence…an immaculate production.” CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “What Mamet’s play and Josie Rourke’s tense, raw production painfully captures is that moment in life when a child wakes to the frailty of his parents and the knowledge that there are some ills in life that can’t be cured with a kiss, a cuddle and a few kind words – the end of innocence, in fact.” BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, “I liked the play more than when I saw it at its premiere 12 years ago. Then I thought that Mamet’s hesitant, elliptical, fragmented dialogue came close to self-parody. But this time it’s clearly the language of people who are stumbling about in the ontological fog or, as the title suggests, trying to solve the cryptograms of their lives.” ALEKS SIERZ for THE STAGE says, “Mamet’s focus on the child allows him to explore not only the roots of psychological damage but also the way that adult conflicts are imposed on young minds. With its perverse joy in verbal power games, the result is a stomach-clenching gem.” ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, “Although neither adult has fully solved yet how to make all the many Mametian repetitions convincingly expressive, the production’s tight pace and gathering anguish are otherwise compelling.” PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, “An immaculate and deeply disturbing production.”


An interesting review of Mamet’s thoughts about the effect that his divorce had on him are discussed here (web.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap8/mamet-html). Interesting comparison between a boy’s point of view and Superman mythology:

As a child of divorced parents, Mamet had written a very personal essay on an important reaction regarding his thoughts on this situation. Mamet examines the appeal “of the comic book hero Superman who, far from being invulnerable as most boys imagine, it is ‘the most vulnerable of beings, because his childhood was destroyed'” (Kane, 35). As a result of this image, Mamet wrote Reunion as a reminder explaining that although moments can seem short-lived, the broken home is still the most important institution in America. This essay provides a great autobiographical interest regarding Mamet as well as the light it sheds on his male characters that portray an ongoing sort of toughness in his plays (Kane 34-6).

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds
February 7, 2008, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Plays about growing up in Divorce

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds is a play by Paul Zindel.  I saw this when I was in High School and from what I remember it’s a total fright flick about power tripping between Mothers and Daughters and Sisters.  The Mother also happens to be single. It was made into a TV movie starring Joanne Woodward. I remember I saw it while my Mother was out on a Date.  She had moved the TV into her bedroom and kept it on all the time because she had to surround herself with noise.  As I’ve said before she had drinking and mental problems and was having severe panic attacks during the time in addition.  So I was sitting on the bed while she was getting dressed and made up for a date and walked out as the movie started.  I sort of remember Joanne Woodward’s hair being ratted out like Medusa while her daughters sat in reaction to her bizarre behaviors. I remember the light bulb going on about all my fears about absorbing my parents’ problems and feelings of determination not to be trapped by them came from this movie.  I guess it helped me get through High School.  I succumbed later on in College. The apple never falls very far from the tree.

This is a story about the craziness of growing up in a single parent household and the inexplicable way that some kids will grow healthfully out of the environment while others will succumb to the pressures. Anything with Joanne Woodward has got to be great.  She hasn’t really acted in all that many movies but she’s always awesome.  I wonder if they still play that movie on TV.

According to Wikipedia, Paul Zindel’s parents were divorced and he lived with his Mother.  Most of his books and plays apparently included the theme of Divorce.

The Oresteia & Hamlet
February 7, 2008, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Books, Plays about growing up in Divorce, Uncategorized

I was thinking back to great works of literature and the closest I’ve come so far to issues regarding Children of Divorce are issues of Children who kill a parent when that parents kills the other parent.

First off I thought of the Oresteia, a trilogy from Ancient Greece written by Aeschylus. I read it in College and was amazed at how well it portrayed a lot of the emotional tensions of growing in a Divorced Family with the child sacrifice and blame, betrayal, and ultimately tragic behavior.  Having been raised on the Brady Bunch b.s. I was in 7th Heaven that literature could actually tell the truth.

In this story Agamemnon returns from fighting in the Trojan War. He’s bringing along a new girlfriend, Cassandra. His wife, Clytemnestra, meanwhile, is plotting his death to avenge that he had their daughter sacrificed during the War (Iphegenia). Oh yeah, and she’s been shacking up with his cousin while he’s away and the cousin really hankers after the throne.

So Cassandra kills Agamemnon and all’s cool for her except for one tiny thought that if her son, Orestes, ever hears of this he’ll have to return and avenge his Father’s death. Orestes was sent away as a baby for some kind of security reason and nobody even knows what he looks like. Meanwhile, there’s the other daughter, Electra. the kids just get in the way, don’t they?  Electra’s hanging out at her Father’s grave, weeping and moaning over the loss of her Father and the deceitfulness of her Mother when a strange man walks up. It’s Orestes. They have a chat about what’s been going on and Orestes goes off to kill his Mother and StepFather. After the murder, a group of nagging witches descend on him and promise to chase him for the rest of his life. It turns out that in Ancient Greece the Mother could get away with killing her husband without being chased by these “Furies” but a blood relation can not.  Doesn’t matter the reason. In the last playof the trilogy, Orestes is finally released from the Furies harassment when the gods throw a trial for him of his peers. Favoritism by the Gods and the new Judicial System represent the new form of Greek Laws where true Justice can only exist if accompanied by a feeling of Mercy.  The old idea of Justice being “an eye for eye” is tossed out here as barbaric.

So, I guess that’s that. The Child who is born with a rotten parent just has to suffer. In ancient Greece, a man could easily divorce a woman but it wasn’t the other way around. I guess a lot of women were killing their husbands in order to move on.

Sort of along this line is the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet learns that his Uncle has killed his Father and married his Mother. His predicament is slightly more complicated than Orestes’.  He hestitates about whether or not to kill the Uncle and plays all kinds of games in order to decide.  I think his confusion is standard Child of D. type of thinking. In the end, his inability “to know” what to do is his downfall and almost everyone in the castle ends up dead at the end.  The play is all about grief, rage, insanity and family.