SPEED-THE-PLOW, Pyewacket, at Voltaire. David Mamet’s 1988 one-act was inspired by his experiences in the movie industry, whose credo, he later opined, should be “Film is a collaborative business: bend over.” Satirizing Hollywood sleaze on and off the screen, the twisting story concerns two aspiring power brokers, Charlie and Karen, who vie for influence over rising studio exec Bobby Gould. Charlie wants Bobby to “greenlight” a macho action thriller, while Karen is promoting a commercially unpromising art film; their competition is complicated by Charlie and Bobby’s wager over whether Bobby can get Karen into bed.
Entertaining but lightweight, Speed-the-Plow examines Mamet’s recurring subject: people seeking emotional and spiritual authenticity but succumbing to the soul-destroying lure of power and position. Unfortunately, little of the play’s dark side emerges in this revival, directed by Linda LeVeque and Frank Farrell. The raunchy, rapid-fire repartee between Michael Nowak’s fussy, short-fused Charlie and David Tatosian’s smugly ironic Bobby is sardonically funny in a Larry Sanders Show vein. But Kelly Haran’s Karen lacks the necessary mystery to make us care whether she’s Bobby’s savior or one more shark in the feeding frenzy. Pyewacket’s glib, brisk production provokes laughs but fails to convey the underlying terror of spiritual emptiness crucial to Mamet’s plays; for top-quality Mamet right now, check out the splendid Burnt Orange production of Oleanna at the Chicago Dramatists Workshop. –Albert Williams