Pin It

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pinch ‘N’ Ouch charms with Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow

PEFORMATIVE INFLUENCE: Jayson Warner Smith as Bobby Gould and Rob Mello as Charles Fox in Speed-the-Plow
  • Drake Simons
  • PEFORMATIVE INFLUENCE: Jayson Warner Smith as Bobby Gould and Rob Mello as Charles Fox in Speed-the-Plow
“Your name will be a punchline in this town!” one movie producer barks at another in Speed-the-Plow, David Mamet’s portrayal of Hollywood’s dog-eat-dog behavior. Mamet’s stylish, staccato dialogue perfectly suits the swaggering hyperbole of film industry dealmakers and lunch-takers.

So many other plays, films and TV shows have relished Tinseltown talk while satirizing showbiz morality that Speed-the-Plow can get lost among the likes of Sunset Boulevard and The Player. Nevertheless, Pinch ‘N’ Ouch Theatre offers a lively and engrossing production of Speed-the-Plow in its new performance space at the Druid Hills Baptist Church.

Speed-the-Plow presents a dilemma to newly promoted studio head Bobby Gould (Jayson Smith): Should Bobby green light a surefire hit prison/buddy film with an A-list actor, or adapt a dreary-sounding novel about radiation, the end of the world, and other high-brow themes?

As a business decision, it’s a no-brainer, but Gould’s personal relationships make it more complicated. The prison movie would make the career of Charles Fox (Robert Mello), Bobby’s loyal, long-suffering colleague. Bobby’s temp Karen (Jackie Costello), a Hollywood newcomer, champions the radiation movie as a chance to deliver a profound, positive message. Would Bobby rather be a good friend or a good man? Would he rather make money or good movies?

As a business decision, it’s a no-brainer, but Gould’s personal relationships make it more complicated. The prison movie would make the career of Charles Fox (Robert Mello), Bobby’s loyal, long-suffering colleague. Bobby’s temp Karen (Jackie Costello), a Hollywood newcomer, champions the radiation movie as a chance to deliver a profound, positive message. Would Bobby rather be a good friend or a good man? Would he rather make money or good movies?

The prison movie, incidentally, sounds terrible. The only scene we hear about in any detail smacks of racism and homophobia. The radiation novel sounds terrible in a different way, although Karen describes its genuinely touching message about the universality of fear and how to overcome it. Mamet has his characters repeatedly read aloud excerpts from the book, in admiration as well as derision, but the prose tends to be abstract and ambiguous no matter who recites it. Mamet’s larger point might be that purveyors of mass entertainment can’t get their heads around a work with transcendent meaning.

As Karen, Costello brings out all the naïveté and idealism of the role as written, but she’s a problematic character. Like Carol, the earnest college student in Mamet’s follow-up play Oleanna, Karen questions the workings of a male-dominated institution and becomes increasingly adversarial. Karen’s not the young fascist that Carol becomes, but both characters take condescending views of women as blank slates who are easily corrupted.

Under Grant McGowen’s direction, Smith and Mello relish the volley of Mamet’s dialogue. With his ears, teeth and jowls, Mello particularly has the comedic presence of an old-school character actor. At one point, he shadowboxes when he triumphantly recounts how he landed the prison picture. Smith crisply delivers his smooth patter, but also conveys how Gould has just enough self-awareness to realize that he’s basically hollow. As a Hollywood takedown, Speed-the-Plow eats the dust of actual movies, but it’s always fun watching Mamet put the right actors through their paces.

Speed-the-Plow Through April 29. $10-$25. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Pinch ‘N’ Ouch Theatre, Druid Hills Baptist Church, 1085 Ponce de Leon Ave. 800-838-3006. www.pnotheatre.org.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Fresh Loaf

More by Curt Holman

12/11/2014

Search Events

Search Fresh Loaf

Recent Comments

© 2014 Creative Loafing Atlanta
Powered by Foundation