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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Playhouse


  Lindsay Lohan and Richard Schiff/ Ph: Simon Annand

The New York Times headline said it all. “Here Is What Happens when You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie.” The moral of that article was that casting a Hollywood star whose life has become a slow-motion car crash, is to invite trouble. In the same spirit, the British press reported every rumour about Lohan forgetting her lines during previews. Expectations were high that she might not even turn up.

But this isn't a Hollywood film. This is a London play, albeit one by David Mamet (from 1988) that gets to the cynical heart of Tinsel Town. In Lindsay Posner's solid but uninspired production, Lohan, whose breakthrough movie was the teen flick Mean Girls of over a decade ago, plays Karen, temporary secretary to recently promoted studio executive Bobby Gould, played by former West Wing star Richard Schiff.

Gould's first big decision in the job is to get the studio boss to green-light a movie brought to Gould by his old friend and colleague Charlie Fox (Nigel Lindsay). It should be a shoo-in. The project comes with the name of a big name attached. Fox could have taken it to another studio, but he's loyally brought it to Gould. They have until 10am the following morning to sew up the deal. Nothing can go wrong until it does.

Mamet's lesson about men here is that the power of greed is matched only by sexual ego. And the lesson is taught when Gould invites Karen to his apartment to give him a report on a book Gould has no intention of turning into a film. It's a "courtesy read" passed to Gould by the studio boss so that it can be rejected with sensitivity. Karen, however, recommends that the novel – about radiation and the end of the world – should be made into a film.

This is Lohan's big scene. But it is not the play's. That comes later when Nigel Lindsay's tight-suited and clammy Fox has to first absorb the news that the box office smash he has been waiting for all his working life is being ditched by Gould in favour of a book that spells box office death, and then fights to get the decision reversed. But back to Lohan's big moment. She does very well. In fact, apart from one line that had to be prompted from the wings, the husky-voiced Lohan in her stage debut does as well as it is reasonable to expect, her Karen exuding as much steel and sincerity as she does sexual allure – all qualities deployed to convince Gould that he should do the right thing by making the film. That doing so would give her career a boost and his life meaning as well are mere details. 

Anyone who saw the unforgettable 2008 Old Vic production of the play with Kevin Spacey (Fox) and Jeff Goldblum (Gould) will know that who play's Karen – it was stage play virgin Madonna when it premiered in New York – is neither here nor there. Pivotal though the character is, the climax in this three-hander is all about the men. In that Old Vic production Mamet's dialogue ricocheted around the stage like a pinball, driven by the actors' deep understanding of the world Mamet has written about. Here, Nigel Lindsay and Schiff only belatedly get up to speed. When they do, Posner's production finally takes flight. Being a short play, the moment is well worth waiting for. But it has little to do with Karen, or Lohan for that matter.


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