The Cryptogram is set in a “normal” 1959 household, but the characters, a housewife, her son and a family friend, are no happier than any of Mamet’s conmen or schemers. Donny, the housewife, and John, her son, wait at home for Bob, the husband and father, to arrive and take them camping. John finds a letter from his father on the stairs saying that Bob has left to be with another woman. Del, Bob’s best friend, wants to comfort the family and provides a substitute father figure for John. However, Donny finds out that Del let Bob use his home for assignations with his lover, and she kicks him out. Meanwhile, John, an insomniac, begins to hear voices. He tries to talk to his mother, but she is too caught up in her own abandonment to hear him. Her anger explodes in the final scene. The powerful symbolism of objects plays a role in the play, and John’s father’s knife is the most important object. In the end, Del gives the boy the knife and tells him to go. John holds up the knife ominously, and the play ends.