Mamet's 'Speed-the-Plow' tackles rotten Hollywood

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 28, 2013 - 3:33 PM

REVIEW: A great cast finds the gnarly juice in David Mamet’s psychodrama about the crasser side of moviemaking.

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Kris Nelson, Bill McCallum and Sara Marsh in “Speed-the-Plow.”

If playwright David Mamet is a brawler of the American stage, he wounds more deeply with words than with blows.

“Speed-the-Plow,” his savage, vulgar sendup of Hollywood’s shifting mores and allegiances, is a case in point. The three-character play is getting a very impressive production in an unusual space by a nimble new outfit called Dark & Stormy Productions.

It’s well worth the trip to the “found” loft-like space in the Miller Bag Building on E. Hennepin Avenue in northeast Minneapolis, just west of Interstate 35W.

The production has minimal design values; Dark & Stormy is like a newer version of Ten Thousand Things. But the performances are by first-rate actors Kris Nelson, Bill McCallum and Sara Marsh. Nelson plays would-be movie producer Charlie Fox, who is aiming to get his big break and might just get it now that his old friend, Bobby Gould (McCallum), has been promoted to studio big shot. Bobby can make the movie happen for Charlie.

Into this mix steps the temporary employee, Karen, played to perfection by Marsh. Karen seems like a naive, innocent girl in Hollywood. She is not sure what to do. McCallum’s Bobby gives her an assignment, which will be graded at his place later in the night.

Sexual harassment, crass language and plain boorishness might be taboo in the American workplace but are standard operating procedures in Hollywood, Mamet says in his gnarly psychodrama.

None of the words or the emotions they are meant to convey can be trusted. Mamet never lets you think you have figured out what these characters truly believe. They have no core.

Director Ben McGovern’s production benefits from an arresting cast. McCallum plays the heck out of his swaggering studio exec. It’s not just the feet on the table, but the thunderous bravado. And he looks like the Hollywood swell, as well.

Nelson, he of the penetrating blue-eyed gaze, gives a ferocious performance. He invests Charlie with the manic energy of a juiced-up boxer. Visions of his name above the movie’s title dance in his head. His Charlie is all adrenaline all the dreamy or ragged time.

But the show belongs to Marsh, who sells innocence masterfully. At one point, another character asks if Karen is a witch. I’m not sure about that, but Marsh does make the fire burn and the caldron bubble under the surface of “Plow.”

 

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390 • On Twitter: @RohanPreston

  • SPEED-THE-PLOW

    Who: By David Mamet. Directed by Ben McGovern. Produced by Dark & Stormy Productions.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat. Ends March 9.

    Where: Miller Bag Building, 861 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls.

    Tickets: $15-$25; patrons under 30 pay half their age, www.darkstormy.org.

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