SPEED-THE-PLOW by David Mamet, directed by Jeff Seymour, with Joely Collins, Bill Elliot and Seymour. Presented by C.O.R.E. at the Jane Mallett Theatre (27 Front East). Runs to May 17, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $25-$45. 416-366-7723. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
david mamet's tale of power-tripping in Tinseltown won't open anyone's eyes to the well-known venality of Hollywood, but it's a sharp, pungent piece of writing. Too bad Jeff Seymour's production squanders most of the script's tension.Bobby Gould (Seymour), recently appointed head of production at a big studio, and his friend of 11 years, Charlie Fox (Bill Elliot), plan to sell a prison flick to their boss. The deal gets sidetracked when Gould asks temp Karen (Joely Collins), who's attracted his fancy, to give a courtesy read to a less-than-filmable novel about radiation and the end of the world.
Mamet's plays fly on the idiosyncratic rhythms and overlapping of the dialogue. He very particularly characterizes his figures by the way they speak. Seymour's direction in the first two scenes turns these taut rhythms flabby, although, to be fair, he's not helped by a venue whose echoing acoustics muddy the exchanges between the two men, especially when the pace accelerates. He also foolishly sabotages Mamet's dark comedy by inserting cheap TV jokes involving peanut butter, a Star Wars laser sword and a stupid necktie-in-the-crotch gag.
At the start, the men convey little sense of their personal power, and, worse for Seymour's Gould, no charm. The nasty undercurrent in the Hollywood hierarchy is rarely suggested, and Collins's moral-sounding temp needs energy and drive we never feel. What saves the production is Elliot's final-scene fire, when former ass-licker Fox grabs control of the situation and proves that the most honest big-screen scenario is survival of the trickiest. JK