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The Water Engine & Mr. Happiness

The Water Engine & Mr. Happiness
Your Price: $16.95 CDN
Author: David Mamet
Publisher: Samuel French, Inc.
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 82
Pub. Date: 1983
ISBN-10: 0573600570
ISBN-13: 9780573600579
Cast Size: 2 women, 6 men

About the Play:

The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness contains two one-act plays by David Mamet. In The Water Engine, presented in the style of a radio drama, the inventor of an engine that runs purely on water is seen as a threat to big business. In Mr. Happiness, a radio advice-giver responds to letters. Conceived as a short opening monologue to precede The Water Engine, with which it constitutes a full evening of theatre, Mr. Happiness can also be presented independently with equal effectiveness.

The Water Engine is the main attraction of the evening. As the audience watches, actors, an announcer and a sound effects man present a radio play during the 1930s with unerring authenticity. The "play within the play" reveals the Depression-era story of Charles Lang, a labourer who invents an engine that uses distilled water for fuel. At first ridiculed, he is courted by crooked lawyers attempting to buy the invention from him on behalf of 'certain business interests'. Refusing, he is threatened and when he attempts to give his story to the newspapers, is murdered along with his sister. The engine is destroyed, but the inventor has mailed the blueprint to a young student scientist who will configure and reveal his invention to the world. A brilliant mix of radio play and noir mystery, David Mamet's timeless script is suspenseful, dark and a uniquely American tale of idealism and greed. (Cast: 2 women, 6 men)

Mr. Happiness: This short curtain raiser for The Water Engine takes place in a 1930s radio station. A prim, sincere advice to the lovelorn personality answers – by some magical exposition of instant radio – the letters people have written him. In an unctuous, urbane voice "Mr. Happiness" solves everyone's problems in the best style of a 1930s radio and newspaper "Miss Lonelyhearts." A a little gem, Mr Happiness is a much shorter and more light-hearted piece, set up like a short preceding the feature length film. (Cast: 1 man)

The Water Engine was originally written as a radio play for the NPR drama showcase Earplay. It was first staged at in 1977 at The St. Nicholas Theater in Chicago and later at The Public Theater in New York. It transferred as a double-bill with Mr. Happiness to the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway in 1978. The play was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play.

What people say:

"Extraordinary ... verbal brilliance." — The New York Times

"A vivid theatrical experience." — New York Daily News

"It's the stuff of a thousand films noirs: good guy gets embroiled with the bad guys, rat-a-tat sub-machine-gun dialogue, hard-bitten hacks and hard-biting broads. But it's the imperceptible shift from Capra to Kafka in David Mamet's The Water Engine that keeps the piece so gripping." — The Independent (London)

About the Playwright:

David Mamet is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright as well as a director, novelist, poet, and essayist. He has written the screenplays for more than twenty films, including the Oscar-nominated The Verdict. His more than twenty plays include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross. Born in Chicago in 1947, Mamet has taught at the Yale School of Drama, New York University, and Goddard College, and he lectures at the Atlantic Theater Company, of which he is a founding member. He lives in Santa Monica, California.

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