Subversive Theatre Gives the Speed-y Treatment to Hollywood
Manipulation. Deceit. Sex.
According to David Mamet's play Speed the Plow, these elements are vital tools for surviving in the cut-throat world of Hollywood's big-shot filmmakers. The play, put on by the Subversive Theatre Collective of Buffalo, is a commentary on the dilemmas put forth by the ruthless nature of the filmmaking industry.
Bobby Gould (Timothy Patrick Finnegan) is a newly promoted head of production for a film studio, and as such he is responsible for bringing worthy scripts to the studio head. His colleague and friend of 11 years, Charlie Fox (Kevin Craig), comes to him with a project featuring a big-name star - a project that stands to make both of them very wealthy men. The plan becomes complicated, however, when a secretary with an agenda, Karen (Andrea Andolina) sleeps with Bobby.
Finnegan embodies the cool, pragmatic realism that Bobby Gould requires for the majority of the play. Craig, whose character often serves as comic relief, acts as the perfect foil to Finnegan's Gould in both stature and delivery.
The two male leads work with each other in a memorable manner.However, Andolina's representation of Karen makes far less of an impact, by no fault of the actress. It seems as though Mamet meant for Karen to merely be a pawn - another worthless wannabe cast aside by cold-hearted Hollywood.
Nonetheless, Andolina does an admirable job of embodying the dubious naivet?(c) of the untrustworthy Karen and plays off the other leads with adeptness.
The way the three leads were cast did justice to the play's thematic agenda. Each character acts as a stereotype associated with "making it big" in show business. It was Finnegan who really showcased the complex and often contradictory nature of professional filmmaking. John Marieh, 28, of Florida, said the play was fantastic for that reason alone.
"It hit points of sarcasm as well as true to life possibilities in the movie industry," Marieh said. "Tim Finnegan did an amazing job portraying [this blend]."
An aspect of the play that perhaps isn't obvious to the audience, but that is vital for praising the prowess of the actors is the complexity of Mamet's scripts. Director Christopher Standart, who has been acting and directing since 1982 and has received multiple Artie nominations, said the difficulty of Mamet's work makes the play both challenging and rewarding for actors.
"[Actors] hate the script because there are so many words, and it's not only [memorizing] the words, but you have to memorize the pauses," Standart said. "The author puts in italicized words that have to be hit in order to keep a rhythm. It's like doing Shakespeare. The language is athletic. It requires breathing. It's like doing Shakespeare on cocaine."
The quick, biting dialogue is evident but the skill the actors needed to wield the language makes the difficulty of the script go unnoticed. The choice of actors was deliberate on Standart's part; he chose actors he knew he could trust with the unique requirements of the script.
A weakness of the production, however, is the constant idioms and occasional stutters in the dialogue that could have been ad-libbed due to nerves or could have been a part of the script. It was difficult to tell from the actors' body language if it was purposeful or not.
The play's plot was engaging and at times stagnant, but Mamet's characters' rambling and the passion with which it was executed was evident.
"I really love to direct, [but only] when I feel very passionate about the piece," Standart said.
His love of Mamet's work and his relationship with all the actors made this production very enjoyable for him. This aspect reflected onto the audience and made Speed the Plow an amusing way to spend a Friday night.
Speed The Plowwill continue running at the Subversive Theatre Collective of Buffalo until May 13. Tickets range from $15-20.