Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Speed-The-Plow"

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note: entire contents copyright 1996 by Larry Stark


Written by David Mamet
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

Set Design by Janie E. Fliegel
Lighting Design by Linda O'Brien
Costume Design by Jana Durland Howland
Stage Manager Michele Keith

Bobby Gould..................Ted Reinstein
Charles Fox................Phillip Patrone
Karen.................Heather Glenn Wixson
Movers......... Nancy Lamothe & David Lirue

If David Mamet who wrote "Speed-The-Plow" --- or Spiro Veloudis who directed it, or the three actors performing it at The Lyric Stage --- thought of it as an exercise in style, the result would be nothing more than an elaborately fleshed-out DILBERT cartoon. Fortunately, each one of them knows that under all the slick verbal play there is something very important at stake, and that makes this short, slender three-act comedy reverberate in the mind long after the play is over.

Of course, the three protagonists would probably disagree as to what, exactly, is at stake here. For Charles Fox (Phillip Patrone) it's the affluent pay-off for eleven years as a lick- spittle yes-man. For Bobby Gould (Ted Reinstein) it's the first chance to make a ten-million dollar decision. For Karen (Heather Glenn Wixson) it might be the chance to play a role with the heavy rollers of the world --- or a chance to save a man's soul.

Mamet's subject is Hollywood's corporate decision-makers --- people in offices so high that picture-windows show nothing but clouds, where lives are gambled on whether people might spend money to see one picture or another. Safe moves can bankroll schlock that sells, serious pictures can mean assless seats. And decisions have to be made.

The pace of this production varies from rapid-fire exchanges of macho cliches to soul-searching exploration to toe- to-toe screaming matches. There are lightning exchanges of witty reparte so fast no one laughs, punctuated by spontaneous explosions of hilarity that simply dissipate tension. And there is, at last, a rock-solid bottom-line that no one can argue against no matter how committed the heart might be to art.

At the center of this battle stands Ted Reinstein, playing a new head-of-production paid to make decisions --- just so long as all of them are right. He knows the game and how it must be played, but toys with the possibility of free will.

Phillip Patrone, after eleven years the flunky, has a gold-mine dropped in his lap, he and will do anything necessary to protect his slice of the pie.

The swing figure here is leggy, miniskirted Heather Glenn Wixson --- a one-day temp made the sex-object prize in a sex-bet, whose inexperience and idealism tempts the new head of production to do the unthinkable: to think for himself.

This is a carefully crafted script with carefully crafted performances honed and paced and sharpened by expert direction. The fact that a full-view set-change by two uniformed "movers" (Nancy Lamothe and David Lurie) evokes spontaneous applause is evidence of how perfectly everyone connected with the show, down to Janie E. Fliegel's sets, Jana Durland Howland's costumes and Linda O'Brien's lighting effects, work toward a relentlessly controlled total experience.

The bottom-line fact here, of course, is that neither possible film is better than the other --- but one will certainly make more money than the other. It's decisions like this that have made America what it is, right?



140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON
till 24 November

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide