So here’s 2 (of 6) parts of a class assignment I did 2.5 months ago. This has been my favourite homework of all time. What we did was pick a character from a list of plays, and construct an introduction for the character, in the character’s own manner of speech (Our prof called it “acting-on-paper”). And also talk about how he may look or sound or dress, which were sections that didn’t particularly interest me, not as much as these. I played this guy for my monologue as well, and my audition for the on-stage class. Which I cleared. Cuz I raahk. Anyway, this is the only thing I can offer right now:
on Bernard Litko from Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974) by David Mamet
(i) First-Person Biography:
Honestly, I ain’t really no big fan o’ tellin’ sob-stories, man. I mean, I ain’t even got no story to tell, ya know? Just the same classic single-mom bullshit, and that’s it. I mean, c’mon. Even Hollywood’s got one thing straight, and that’s the single-mom story. One the one side, we got the hard workin’ mom who got passed around like a joint in a frat party one day ’cause she had a shot too many, and now she’s tryin’a raise two kids the ol’ Christian way and shit, and… Oh that’s right, almost forgot. I got a brother too. Twin. Yeah, he’s a big-time legal pros…cecution…er, or some shit like that. I mean, yeah it’s like a lawyer but I don’t know, it’s some kinda… I don’t know… different, I guess. But fuck that, he’s a dickhole is what he is. I mean, just ’cause a fella make some dough don’t mean he gotta run around in thousand-dollar threads all the mothafuckin’ time, ya know? I mean, everybody knows… everybody fuckin’ knows he’s makin’ more Benjamins than me, right? So why he gotta keep rubbin’ it in on my face all the fuckin’ time, man? Pimp-ass lawyer — fuck that! We’re talkin’ some emotional… consideration… like maturity… that kinda shit here. Ya feel me, right?
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I give a shit who wears what or who lives where or who fucks who. Trust me, I’m good with what I got. What I got’s great. Just that I can’t tell you what I do, unlike my phony-ass brother, ’cause I gotta kill you if I did. Real talk, no bull. And besides, every Friday, me and Danny, we hang at the Yak-Zies. Chill place, chill times. Yeah. I’m teachin’ that kid the art of… seduction. Some ol’ school knowledge, ya know? (laughs) ’Cause if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s picking up bitches, man. Trust me, I know my bitches. And here’s the deal, I’ma drop some free wisdom on you right now, (aside) just ’cause you look Republican, and they’s hard to come by these parts ya know, so listen up — you’ve got bitches, and then you’ve got bitches. The first kind? Just cock-starved cock-pockets, either ’cause they just turned legal, or just broke up, or just got drugged, or whatever the fuck. These ones, you smash ’em, then call ’em a cab, and boom. That’s all it takes. That’s all it fuckin’ takes to get ’em outta your whole… goddamn… like ecosystem, ya know? But the second kind, if you don’t handle ’em, they gonn’ fuck you up. They gonn’ fuck you up real good. They leeches, man. Fuckin’ leeches. They gonn’ live off your fuckin’ blood if you let ’em. I’m tellin’ ya, the second kind? They ain’t just in it ’cause they need the peninsula — they could catch one anywhere. Reason why they won’t is ’cause they can sniff you out. They can sniff your fuckin’ social status out on you man, and believe me, if you got a job, are sick o’ charmin’ your own goddamn snake all the mothafuckin’ time, but aren’t well-learnt in the art of bitch-evaluation, you goin’ down, fella. You gonn’ go down, big time. And these are really just the basics, like the 101s… like they got in college, ya know?
It’s why Danny needs me. Kid’s just starting out. Right now, he’s… whattaya call it… vulnerable. That broad, what’s her name, Denise? Deborah? Dianne? Whatever she calls herself, that broad? She’s tryin’a take advantage o’ my boy’s innocentness. Trust me, I knew the moment I saw her that she wasn’t no dumb everyday bitch. No. That one? She’s an advanced bitch. Like the specifically-designed-to-fuck-your-whole-damn-life-up kind. If every ten years, the good Lord Almighty personally sent down a real special-made bitch, programmed to… like smite the male kind for whatever sins of ours, she’d be that bitch. Man, that little skank’s done figure out exactly what my boy wants outta his women, and she’s givin’ him exactly whatever the fuck that is, and she’s gonn’ play him good if I don’t stick around. But Danny, he should be grateful, ’cause he got me. And me, I ain’t never turned my back on no brother in danger of fuckin’ himself up for some broad he found in a fuckin’ art show. Fuck no! Sorry ma’am, but that ain’t never gonn’ happen, ah-ah, not on my boy and not on my watch. I wish I’d spat this out on her ugly mug a while ago, and her friend’s. That bitch’s a whole other piece o’ work. Skinny-ass broad, told me she wasn’t sexually attracted to me. Straight up, in my face. To me! You believe that? Some balls she got, and all I’m tryin’a do is get a nice conversation goin’. I tell ya, if that broad don’t learn some fuckin’ respect before she wants a ride on the cock-carousel again, she gonn’ get killed. Chokin’ on jizz. From ten sacks o’ hairy, stinkin’ nuts! That Jenna… Ginny… Joan… Whatever the fuck that broad calls herself. But hey, like I said, I ain’t no fan o’ talkin’ ’bout myself. Anyway, who the fuck’d you say you were?
Bernard Litko completely lacks any genuine sense of self-pride, but he substitutes it with a superficial yet convincing pretence of arrogance and flamboyance, and this keeps him from falling too deep into the crevasses of his own diffidence and emotional voids. He has had a troubled childhood and it is likely that he lacked a role-model during his formative years, which we can infer from the fact that makes no mention of any of his family at all whatsoever during the entire course of the play. This would explain why he does not understand the value of self-approval because he has never had anyone to teach him that, or value him as a person unconditionally.
These factors make Bernard the primary means to infuse humour into the narrative of the play for an actor, and that is the exact purpose for which the character seems to be designed. It is, therefore, easy to interpret and play this character as the primary comic outlet of the play but it would be careless not to recognize his potential to earn both the audience’s affection and their contempt simultaneously. An actor playing Bernard will have to realize that his sense of humour is endearing but his psychological dependence on displaying disrespect to establish his superiority over others is not. While the character has a very deluded image of himself and will try never to confront his deepest fears, which are those of being subjected to indifference and rejection, the actor portraying him has to make sure that they communicate his inhibitions and anxieties only very subtly, and in micro doses, preserving his facade of pretentious confidence all the while. The actor must carry an arrogant, disrespectful, and foul-mouthed persona for most of the play, but there are certain instances that will demand that they express a little bit of their dormant fears, like in Scene 17, when Bernard inadvertently ends up letting Danny know that he was molested in a movie theatre as a child.
Bernard Litko, in many ways, embodies the term “man-child,” in that he continuously seeks externally sourced validation without the constant supply of which his own image of himself will begin to deteriorate. He is a character who needs to be saved from his own inherently destructive lack of self-regard, but does not realize this himself yet, and instead tries to cover it up with ostentation and aggression. This makes it easier to loathe him as he goes on creating ridiculous fictional accounts of his adventures and disrupting other people’s private affairs for his own selfish needs. His proclivity for verbal abuse does not help this case. However, he manages to retain a lovability about himself, primarily because his insecurities regarding his position in other people’s lives elicits the audience’s sympathy, and also due to the fact that malice is never the the main motivation behind anything he does. He does what he does only to make sure that he keeps mattering to the people who matter to him.