By Manning Harris
In March of 2007 the Alliance Theatre produced David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer-Prize winning “Glengarry Glen Ross,” a caustic, nihilistic look at shady real estate agents lying, cheating, and cheerfully betraying one another.
Now we have “Speed-the-Plow,” another Mamet piece on the boards at one of Atlanta’s newest and most stimulating theatre companies, the Pinch ‘N’ Ouch Theatre. I found “Speed-the-Plow” (the name comes from a 14th Century poem) to be a wicked delight, directed by Grant McGowen and featuring three very talented, experienced actors. It runs through April 29.
I first saw “Plow” on Broadway in the summer of 1988 (as a small child, of course); and even though it featured Joe Mantegna, Ron Silver (who won a Tony), and Madonna (that’s right), I was not too impressed. That summer offered some dreadful distractions which I shall not burden you with here.
Happily, in the Pinch-N-Ouch’s delightfully intimate space, those distractions were gone. “In the United States it’s our pleasure and joy to consider life as a commercial enterprise,” Mamet once said in an interview. In his view nowhere is this more evident than in Hollywood, which is the both the subject and chief metaphor of this play. Hollywood: art versus commerce. Which do you think wins out more in Tinseltown?
“I am a whore and proud of it,” says Bobby Gould (Jayson Smith), who’s just been promoted to head of production at a major Hollywood studio. His trusted assistant, the long-suffering Charles Fox (Robert Mello) has just delivered a prize script with a prize star to Bobby, who can now present the deal to the studio head. It is a major coup for both, especially Charlie, who could have taken his golden bundle elsewhere. But nobody does anything in this town without expecting payback.
However, as they gloat and toast each other, the office temp, Karen (Jackie Costello), for whom getting coffee seems an achievement, enters and learns that Bobby has said he’ll do a “courtesy read” (translation: no chance of production) of a book for a friend. He asks Karen to read it for him and come over that night with her verdict. He also makes a $500 bet to Charlie that she’ll sleep with him.
In a true comedic twist, Karen is enthralled with the book and tries to sell it to Bobby: “All radiation has been sent by God to change us…What is it you fear? Embrace it!” They have a wine-soaked conversation and astonishingly, Bobby gets fascinated with this piece of non-commercial crap, as Charlie would call it.
Does Bobby change his mind? Does he sleep with Karen? Is it possible Karen is more savvy than she appears? And how would Charlie feel about all this? You’ll have to see the play, and if I were you, I would. But leave the kids at home.
The language is fiery and “Mamet-speak,” as theatre folk call it. Director McGowen has chosen a perfect cast: Ms. Costello, Mr. Mello, and Mr. Smith are entirely admirable; and quite frankly, it’s a distinct pleasure for this reviewer to see some new (to me) faces. They deliver.
There are two quick intermissions, and in less than two hours it’s over. I actually wanted more. Go.
For tickets and information, visit www.pnotheatre.org .?