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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Barrymore


  Raul Esparza, Jeremy Piven, and Elisabeth Moss/PH: Brigitte Lacomb

We arrived at the Barrymore surprised to find the HBO television series Entourage on Broadway. How else would you explain the sight of Jeremy Piven pouring over piles of movie scripts and eagerly spewing foul language.

No,wait. We're wrong. Piven is playing Bobby Gould , not Ari Gold. This isn't Entourage. but a revival of David Mamet's 1988 play, Speed-the Plow, an equally vicious Hollywood satire that originally starred Madonna ( along with Ron Silvers and Joe Mantegna).

The play's title, derived from an old English farming phrase, refers to the condition of not only being forced to plow (i.e. go to work), but also having to plow under and start the process all over again everyday.

When the play opens, scheming Hollywood producers Charlie Fox ( Raul Esparza) and Gould are in a frenzy over their lust for a box office bonanza. But soon enough they unexpectedly engage in a verbal boxing match over the eternal debate of art versus money.

Should Gould greenlight a formulaic "buddy film" with a major star that will make a fortune for the two men or put himself on the line for an adaptation of a weird, apocalyptic, novel suggested to him by his cute temp secretary Karen ( Elizabeth Moss)? It all feels rather like God and the devil battling over the soul of Faust.

Piven and Esparza practically explode with high- powered male aggression. While Esparza indulges in excessive eccentricity and Piiven sincerely portrays his character's change of heart as a religious rebirth, Moss is seductively low-key. Her character is a seemingly pure, delicate flower who nearly destroys her boss's career with her high art ambition of making a real human connection.

Neil Pepe's tight direction allows Mamet's criticisms on the excesses of American capitalism to resonate more powerfully than ever before. He has crafted three very strong performances and controls their use of Mamet's overlapping, rapid-fire dialogue like a symphony conductor.

At an 80-minute intermissionless length, this is an extraordinary production that never fails to rock and shock your attention span or leave you laughing.


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