attended 10/30/08

opened 10/23/08

Jeremy Piven IS Ari Gold.  Were I blindfolded and unaware of his presence in this show I would have recognized his voice and manner.  But that is not a bad thing.  As Ari Gold, Piven has earned three well-deserved consecutive Emmys for his role in Entourage, the hit HBO series.

But it is not just about Piven as Bobby Gould.  Raul Esparza is terrific as Charlie Fox, Gould’s foil.  You can tell a lot about actors by the choices they make.  The playwright’s lines are words on paper, but the players bring them to life.  They create the characters who say the words;  the inflections, the body language, the movement.  Truly creative actors make compelling choices and Esparza is master at it.

The three person cast is rounded out by the engaging and comely Elisabeth Moss who plays Karen, the temp who gets caught up in the high tension world of movie production.  She enters the world of co-producers Bob and Charles and turns them upside down even as her own world goes topsy turvy.  After all, all she wanted was a job but, when invited to read a book which is not likely to be made into a movie, she gets immersed and champions the movie.  And all this because Bob bet Charles that he could get her into bed that night.

Well maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t.  See the play if you want the answer to that.  Some big philosophical questions arise here, as they tend to in the cerebral David Mamet’s plays.  Is it satisfying for a producer to make big bucks by pandering rather than making quality, creative films?  Or is making a solid, well-plotted, unique movie which doesn’t score the big bucks a more satisfying life?  Is sex a tool to be used by attractive women to gain an advantage in this world, or is it a mutually satisfying act spun by people of like mind and emotional commitment?

Actually it is one of the better aspects of this play that it causes questions to arise in the viewer’s mind.  It makes one reach for the puzzles in one’s own philosophy;  to search for answers to universal questions which spring from Mamet’s dialogues.

At one point when Piven’s character ways he believes in a book, Esparza’s retorts:  “I believe in the yellow pages but I don’t want to make a movie out of it.  Another snappy bit of repartee comes when Fox says about women:  “How do we do it?  Work.  How do they do it?  Sex.”  Sexist perhaps, but with our understanding as audience that it is sometimes true.

The acting is always competent and sometimes great.  The scene changes, always a tricky proposition, are cleverly handled with movie-like flickering lights and sound effects.

So, if you like a play which makes you think and ponder about your own values, then you will probably enjoy Speed the Plow.  It starts a bit slow but gains momentum and maintains it to the end.