To put on a full-length play with just three characters - two males who hardly ever leave the stage and one female who appears periodically - takes courage. And when the words are crafted by David Mamet, whose fast-paced rhetoric deals with issues and conflicts that lie beneath the surface, it takes masterful timing and good chemistry to bring it to life. Unfortunately, the Vortex Theater production, which opened on April 27, sadly missed the mark.
Award-winning playwright and screenwriter, David Mamet (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS; WAG THE DOG) takes a satirical look at the inner workings of the film industry in SPEED-THE-PLOW.
Bobby Gould (played by Marc Comstock) has just been promoted to head of production in a major film studio in Hollywood and is setting up his new office, when his old friend, Charlie Fox, walks in. He offers Gould a winning deal: a sure-fire box office hit (a story set in a prison, with plenty of violence, blood, guts and, of course, sex) together with a well-known actor, who has already agreed to star in the film.
Gould excitedly puts in a call to his boss, the head of the studio, and a meeting is set up. The two friends then launch into an animated, verbal sparring match, lamenting the cynical nature of the film business, but admitting that both are either unable, or unwilling, to leave.
Enter Karen, the temp. who has been called in to cover for Gould’s regular secretary. She is supposedly the naïve, but attractive, 'outsider’ and Fox challenges Gould to a $500 bet if he (Gould) succeeds in getting her into bed.
So Gould comes up with a plan. He asks Karen (Julia Harris) to read a book he has been instructed to skim and politely reject. She’s to make notes and report back to him at his house later that evening. She enthusiastically agrees.
To Gould’s dismay, Karen turns up raving about the book she has just read. She sets about persuading him that this is a far more worthwhile project than the prison story and slyly lets slip that it’s also one she would like to be involved in. To clinch the deal, she seduces him physically, as well as verbally, adding further confusion to his already confused state of mind.
What happens after that and how the relationships between all three characters are finally resolved, make up the real core of the play. But the multi-layered, multi-faceted meanings of the dialogue were sadly lost on this cast. The emotional and psychological conflicts – Make real art or bring home the bread? Remain slave to the system or break out and follow your heart? – were not reflected in the delivery of the dialogue. And none of the actors appeared to be comfortably ‘in character,’ which no doubt explains the lack of energy (physical, emotional and sexual) between them. In the end, they were just actors delivering words.
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