a drama by David Mamet
directed by Robert Walsh
featuring Gabriel Kuttner*, Robert Pemberton*, and Aimee Doherty*
*member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
It’s a money-hungry business.
Speed-the-Plow exposes the greedy and opportunistic world of doing business. When an ambitious woman comes between two long-time friends, she threatens to derail the greenlighting of their surefire screenplay. In the business of making movies, we quickly learn that money talks, sex sells, and doing the right thing can be professional suicide. Coming off of a much-discussed, successful Broadway run, this 85-minute, hard-hitting play, by one of America's most revered writers, will have you questioning who your friends are and where your alliances lie.
"What makes Speed-the-Plow so exciting is its power to define and destroy an entire self-contained world through the tools and weapons of spoken words..." – The New York Times
"Mamet's clearest, wittiest play." – The New York Daily News
Approximately 85 minutes. There will not be an intermission.
Event Name: SPEED-THE-PLOW
Article: Speed up 'The Plow'
TAB - Oct 23, 2009
By Alexander Stevens
They’re having fun down at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, happily doing battle in David Mamet’s war of words, “Speed-The-Plow.”...
They’re having fun down at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, happily doing battle in David Mamet’s war of words, “Speed-The-Plow.” You’ll have fun, too. Sure Hollywood is an easy target — perhaps even easier now than when Mamet wrote the play in 1988. But director Robert Walsh has seized upon the play’s wit and its rat-a-tat-tat rhythms, turning it into a musical of words. And even if some of Mamet’s plotting remains a little creaky and suspect, you’ll forgive the play’s lapses because the characters are so richly comical, so pathetically human, and so much fun to hate.
At the center of it all are two Hollywood insiders who are also Hollywood stereotypes — fast-talking, self-loathing salesmen who almost believe their own chatter. As a comic vein to mine, it’s rich. They have no illusions about their professions, readily and repeatedly describing themselves as whores. “Bobby likes his coffee like he makes his movies,” jokes Charlie, “nothing in it.” But there’s more truth than jest in his jibe.
The two men appear headed for Easy Street. Charlie (Gabriel Kuttner) is on the verge of sealing a movie deal with A-list actor Doug Brown (think: Tom Cruise), and he’s brought the project straight to his longtime friend, and boss, Bobby (Robert Pemberton).
One more meeting to seal the deal, and then nothing to do but sit back and tally the boffo box office receipts. But this is a Mamet play — things aren’t going to go that smoothly. Surely, there are plot twists, power plays and f-bombs to follow.
Enter Karen (Aimee Doherty). She’s the comely temp who’s apparently as naive as they come. But when Bobby bets Charlie that he can bed her, Karen soon holds the key as to whether or not this Doug Brown picture ever gets made.
Bobby offers her an assignment as a ruse to get her back to his house. She’s supposed to read a book about radiation and the end of the world, and report to Bobby — at his house, that night, over wine, of course — about whether the book would make a good (translation: profitable) movie.
That’s where Karen turns on the charm. She’s wowed by the book, and makes an impassioned pitch to Bobby to green-light it. And Doherty has such a beguiling beauty and wholesome delivery that you start to think a movie about radiation just might be a good idea. And as Karen’s hair comes down and the wine flows, Bobby starts to think that way, too. The next morning, at the office, he’s had a change of heart that just might give Charlie — who’s so close to pay dirt he can taste it — an aneurism.
It’s in this last scene that the play really fires on all cylinders. The gloves come off, and out comes the hostility, profanity and misogyny that have been the foundation of Mamet’s career. It’s a pleasing bit of fireworks, and if you haven’t seen the play before, you’ll have a hard time figuring out how the whole thing is going to end.
But the fireworks — as resplendent as they may be — aren’t quite enough to distract you from some obvious holes in the story. The biggest comes during Bobby’s planned seduction. When Karen says that she’d like to help make the radiation movie, Bobby (inexplicably) tells the truth, saying it will never be turned into a film. Mis-take. Why would a guy who’s trying to seduce a woman crush the dream that has her so fawning and excited? A guy who’s slimy enough to make a $500 bet that he can bed a woman would promise her that she’ll play an important role as creative adviser on the movie, and, of course, she’ll also be his personal assistant.
As much fun as the cast is having with the show right now, they’ll be having more fun in a week. They’re still wrestling a bit with their lines, and “Speed-The-Plow” is really one long breathless 90-minute sentence. Director Robert Walsh can clearly hear the tumble of words in his head, but his cast isn’t quite delivering it, yet. When they do, this one-act will be a pleasing little roller coaster ride.
And Gabriel Kuttner, who’s already terrific, will be delivering one of the finest performances of the theater season. He’s astounding, bringing depth and dimension to a Charlie who’s pitbull, hitman and schlep. He shifts effortlessly from pathetic to loyal to scary. When the three actors are completely up to speed, “The Plow” will be a ferocious little jazz trio that’ll be mighty fun to watch.
Event Name: SPEED-THE-PLOW
Article: Witty repartee keeps New Rep's 'Plow' moving
The Boston Globe - Oct 22, 2009
By Don Aucoin
WATERTOWN - There was reason to worry about the vitality of the New Repertory Theatre last month when Kate Warner began her tenure as artistic...
WATERTOWN - There was reason to worry about the vitality of the New Repertory Theatre last month when Kate Warner began her tenure as artistic director with a sluggish production of the dated “Mister Roberts.’’
Paging Dr. Mamet: With “Speed-the-Plow,’’ a Hollywood satire by the ever-provocative David Mamet, the New Rep stage has come back to life. Cursing, scheming, down-and-dirty life.
Though “Speed-the-Plow’’ sags a bit in the middle, Mamet was mostly in top form with this tale of two blockbuster-obsessed movie producers and the idealistic temp who upends their moral universe. The playwright ingeniously maps the shifting balance of power, as first one character seems to be holding all the cards, and then another, and finally another.
“Speed-the-Plow’’ has a production history as colorful as the events onstage. It twice created a stir on Broadway: first, at its premiere in 1988, when Madonna made her stage debut amid great hullabaloo (with costars Joe Mantegna, and Ron Silver), and again last December, when Jeremy Piven abruptly left the cast because of elevated levels of mercury in his blood, which he attributed to the excessive consumption of fish. “My understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer,’’ Mamet cracked at the time.
In the snappy New Rep production, Robert Pemberton plays Bobby Gould, the newly appointed head of production at a film studio. As Gould is sitting at his desk one day, rolling his eyes while giving a “courtesy read’’ to “The Bridge,’’ a turgid piece of literary fiction about radiation and the Meaning of Life, in walks a lower-ranking producer, Charlie Fox (Gabriel Kuttner), with some marvelous news.
Fox has uncovered an old action-caper script from a studio file, gotten it into the hands of a major movie star named Doug Brown, and Brown loved it! He wants to make the film! The script is preposterous, of course. Here is how Gould sums it up after hearing Fox’s outline: “. . . a buddy film, a prison film, Douggie Brown, blah, blah, some girl . . . action, blood, a social theme. . .’’
And dollars. Lots and lots of dollars. Fox, who is badly in need of a break, is jubilant. But beneath his excitement is a discernible undercurrent of resentment toward the more successful Gould. Unable to resist tweaking him, Fox bets Gould $500 that he cannot seduce Karen (Aimee Doherty), Gould’s temporary secretary. Gould takes the bet. He asks Karen to read “The Bridge,’’ then come to his house that night and give him a full report on whether it would make a good movie. She does so, which is when things get complicated. A seduction does indeed take place, but who seduces whom? And which movie will get made, the sure-thing blockbuster or the art film?
As these questions get entertainingly thrashed out, director Robert Walsh gives us Mamet in all his complexity. An actor who has performed in Mamet’s “A Life in the Theatre,’’ Walsh knows that the suspense in Mamet-land stems from the sense that just beneath the verbal violence lurks the threat of physical violence. Sooner or later, Mamet’s people run out of words and things get primal.
But while few writers deliver a jolt to the nervous system (or a punch to the gut) quite like Mamet, the dialogue is of course central to his work, including “Speed-the-Plow.’’ With its choppy, rat-a-tat-tat rhythms and half-finished sentences, Mamet-speak poses a challenge to actors: If it doesn’t seem like their natural idiom, you could end up with the stilted tough-guy patter of, say, HBO’s “Deadwood’’ or ABC’s “NYPD Blue.’’
In their fast-paced scenes together - part conversation, part duel - Pemberton and Kuttner avoid this pitfall. Kuttner endows Fox with an edge of desperation; he has jittery limbs and jumpy eyes, like a man who knows this is his last chance. There is a stillness to Pemberton’s Gould; for all his bluster, he sometimes appears to be listening to an inner voice. Is that his conscience calling? Doherty’s nuanced Karen, meanwhile, has an air of mystery. Does she have an agenda? Is she as interested in power as everyone else in Hollywood? The actress smartly leaves us guessing.
Eric Levenson’s set establishes a visual correlative to the prevailing mood: It is all sharp planes and angles, not unlike the characters. But as always with Mamet, it is our ears, not our eyes, that have most of the fun.
Don Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com.
Event Name: SPEED-THE-PLOW
Review posted by: janet243 from Boston, Oct 22, 2009
Even if you're not a huge Mamet fan (as I'm not), this is a terrific play -- well written, complex but hilarious -- and beautifully acted. Definitely not to be missed.
Event Name: SPEED-THE-PLOW
"Its a business!"
Review posted by: Andrew Broussard from Chestnut Hill, MA, USA, Oct 20, 2009
A terrific revival of a still-potent play. A simplistic set, three incredibly talented actors, and stellar direction made for a very enjoyable evening. Any quibbles I had with the production were... Expand