note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
Theatre One glides into the New Year with David Mamet’s Hollywood satire, “Speed the Plough” recently given a revival in London with Lindsay Lohan as the secretary. The Theatre One Production has some rough moments, but recovers to deliver some satisfying performances in Mamet’s not always satisfying play. Newsweek described Speed-the-Plow as "another tone poem by our nation's foremost master of the language of moral epilepsy. When first presented in 1988, it was nominated for a Tony for best play, best direction and best actor.
The play begins in the office of Bobby Gould, who has recently been promoted to head of production at a major Hollywood studio. It is his job to find scripts to green light to studio head Richard Ross to be made into movies. Longtime colleague Charlie Fox shows up with a coup, a script that movie star Doug Brown appeared at his house with a script Fox sent him some time before, ready to commit. It is a major feat as Brown usually works with another studio and his participation will mean sure fire financial success for the film and boosts in all associated careers. Gould wants to present this project in person to Ross.
It all turns around when Fox wants a cup of coffee and enter Gould’s temp secretary, Karen. Gould tells Fox about a book he has been asked to give a "courtesy read" to, meaning that it is not seriously being considered to be made into a film because the author is "an eastern sissy writer." After she drops off the coffee, Fox, who thinks she is neither a floozy nor a conniving ambitious girl trying to make her way up the Hollywood ladder suggests that Gould try and bed her. Gould offers Karen the chance to take part in the Hollywood process by reading the book and making a recommendation.
It is then it all goes wildly awry.
Omer Courcy is Bobby Gould, a man with a big promotion and the ability to green light films to be made and on close terms with the studio head after years of toiling in obscurity. He is on the verge of the biggest break of his life, a total transformation that will make him into a Hollywood player, his longtime dream. He is in the midst of not only potential triumph, but crisis. Courcy captures the longing that Gould has for success and also his conflicting motives with passion and conviction. He can also be uncertain and fragile as he confronts his fears and his desire for success and his sense of emptiness and loss.
Bobby Genereau is Charlie Fox, longtime friend and colleague of Gould who has a deal of a lifetime drop into his lap when a big time movie star shows up at his house with script he had given him and a timeline on the deal—by ten the next morning. He is eager to succeed and particularly with this gem that dropped into his lap, at all costs. Genereau is a man excited and moved by loyalty to get this projects working with his longtime colleague. He can be effervescent as he rambles on about what will happen in the midst of this success and dogged about emphasizing his underlying loyalty to his friend in Hollywood, a land that often has no loyalties and no friends in the face of the dollar. He can also show the uncertainty and fear with determination.
Amanda Hayter is Karen, the temp secretary, new to the ways and wiles of Hollywood, who finds herself with the chance to play in the big time. Is she as naive as she seems, simply caught up in the ever shifting drama of Hollywood moviemaking or is she really a savvy temptress with her own secret agenda. Hayter captures the naiveté of Karen with determination and conviction. She also deftly evolves into the more sensual and determined siren who has her own agenda.
The first act, which is mainly between Gould and Fox needs a rapid fire, overlapping staccato to work. There seems to be something slightly off between the two actors, not quite on the mark. While they are deft in their staccato exchange many times, it seems to remain slightly off target, never completely connecting. Near misses. As the play progresses, it all gets more on track and gets more satisfying. The second act is by far more satisfying as things come together and the conflict emerges. This is as much to do with the play as it is with the acting. The second act is stronger than the first when things seem to gel more, hit the mark with more precision and effectiveness.
It can be fiercely funny and provocative at times and at other times dark and disturbing.
Peg Saurman Holzemer directs and works hard to keep the rhythm and pacing on target. During the first act it fails at various points, moving in and out until it stabilizes and maintains its pacing and focus.
It will be presented at the Alley Theatre Middleboro, MA, 133 Center Street from January 15-25. Call 774-213-5193 for tickets and information. Tickets are $20, and $18 for seniors (65 and older) and students (with ID).