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Guys want me to do remakes of film that haven't been made yet . . . I'm drowning in 'coverage.'— Bobby Gould
Jon Tenney as Bobby Gould and Greg Germann as Charlie Fox  Speed-the-Plow
Jon Tenney as Bobby Gould and Greg Germann as Charlie Fox Speed-the-Plow
(Photo: Michael Lamont)
As newly promoted film production exec Bobby Gould explains to his friend Charles Fox, Hollywood is a town where everyone wants something from you. Power is everything. . .and fleeting. Connections and favors can make or break your career. So when Fox explains to Gould that he's got the most bankable actor in town knocking on his door, along with a project that has blockbuster written all over it, Gould is rightfully excited. Screw the plot—this deal could cement both of their careers.

Thus David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow nails the center of Hollywood dead on and in a way that only Mamet can, with his testosterone charged and highly acerbic dialogue. The beautiful Geffen Theater is the perfect setting for a revival of the show, directed by Randall Arney, which was nominated for a Tony almost twenty years ago but still manages to feel timely.

Arney's direction works well, as the actors keep our attention riveted with constant movement. The scenic design is perfect, easily plunging us into a freshly painted Hollywood office, complete with filtered light leaking in from slatted blinds in the background. It was surprising, however, that none of the scene changes were covered by music. For such a well executed production, it seemed odd to sit in the dark waiting for the next scene to begin.

In a three person show, the cast can make or break the night. Luckily, Gregg Germann paves the way as Charles Fox, in a tour-de-force performance, sparkling with frenetic energy and completely transforming into his character. You can't take your eyes off him, as he maneuvers through humorous facial expressions, mannerisms, and pitch perfect comedic timing. Germann's in perfect control of the audience, and the stage lights up whenever he is present.

Tenney doesn't quite have Germann's energy, but does a commendable job as power hungry exec Bob Gould. He and Germann spar and build off one another, stroking  each other's egos and feeding one another's gluttonous bids for power. Tenney brings a surprising vulnerability to Gould. We believe that, despite Fox's perfectly commercial and money making project, he may actually want to find a picture that really speaks to him.

Enter Alicia Silverstone as temporary assistant Karen. Mamet's female characters are always a little harder to like, and although Silverstone brings a clear naivete and cutesy quality to Karen, we are left wanting. Gould asks Karen to give a "courtesy read" to an esoteric piece of literature called The Bridge; or, Radiation, and the Half-Life of Society. Not exactly a sure fire hit, but Karen takes it on with zeal.

Fox, of course, thinks that Gould is just trying to get into Karen's pants, which we agree might be the case as Gould invites Karen to discuss the novel at his house in the hills. By the end of the first act, we have transitioned to Gould's grand abode, replete with a view of the Hollywood skyline at night—again, visually perfect, but it's here that the production falters.

The energy lags, and the stagnant staging doesn't help. To give Silverstone credit, Mamet's female parts are never easy to portray. Still, it's hard to believe Karen's passion, as she espouses the theories in the book without convincing us she's capable of understanding them.   Although the air headed quality of her character sometimes works, there's an intellect lacking from her delivery. The rhythm of Mamet's style is lost.

Luckily, Act 2 picks us right back up. Gould and Fox throw around four letter words as often as they breathe. They fill the stage with dialogue that leaves us watching a ping pong match of lightning speed, easily volleying razor sharp comments and retorts without missing a beat.

This Mametian rhythm, if you will, is what makes his plays stand apart and keeps audience members returning to his work. Even though Mamet often emphasizes the revolting misogynistic tendencies present in many of his male characters, he also touches on an honest and brutal revelation of how people actually think and act—and it ain't pretty—especially when women join the fray. Despite its flaws, Speed-the-Plow is worthwhile. If opening weekend was any indication, Los Angelean crowds will have a ball watching this wicked and thoroughly entertaining satire, even as the show skewers the very "industry" in which it is set.

For more about David Mamet and links to other reviews of his play, check out our Mamet Backgrounder.

Directed By: Randall Arney
Written By: David Mamet
Cast: Greg Germann, Alicia Silverstone, Jon Tenney
Production Designer: Jill McGraw
Scenic and Costume Design: Robert Blackman
Lighting Design: Daniel Ionazzi
Stage Manager: Michelle Magaldi
Assistant Stage Manager: Dana V. Anderson
Running Time: 90 minutes, not including a 15 minute intermission
Dates: January 30 — March 25, 2007. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 4:00 pm and 8:30 pm; and Sundays at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
Adult rush ($35) and student rush ($15) tickets are available 10 minutes prior to curtain.
The Geffen Playhouse 10886 Le Conte Ave. LA, CA 90024.
Tickets: $35-69.
Tickets: At the Geffen Playhouse box office, or online at, or via credit card phone order at 310-208-5454, and at all Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling Ticketmaster at 213-365-3500.
Reviewed by Ariana Mufson on 2/10/07.
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