To the editors:
There’s only one thing I want a reviewer to tell me about David Mamet’s play Speed-the-Plow, and Anthony Adler, like every other reviewer, has dropped the ball [March 17].
I just want to know why a play about the Hollywood hustle is called Speed-the-Plow. And with hyphens, yet! If it turns out that the title is just a bizarre non sequitur (like calling a rock band “Digital Condom”), I’d still like to be informed of that fact.
In his hoped-for reply, perhaps Mr. Adler can also include a few words about the equally baffling Glengarry Glen Ross. (The title, not the play. I don’t care about the play.)
Those of us whose interest in theater is marginal at best are certainly not going to attend a performance to seek these answers. We rely on reviewers to satisfy our marginal curiosities. If they fail in that, what purpose do they serve?
Anthony Adler replies:
Finally, a letter from somebody who understands the critic’s mission! Here are your answers, W., along with my apologies for having let you down.
First the poop on Speed-the-Plow, as reported by Richard Christiansen in the Chicago Tribune for Sunday, February 19: “Finally, on a hunting trip in East Texas, Mamet got the title for his play. ‘We were at the forge, watching a friend of mine pound out the steel for a hunting knife, and I remembered the saying that you see on a lot of old plates and mugs: “Industry produceth wealth. God speed the plow.”
“‘This, I knew, was a play about work and about the end of the world, so “Speed-the-Plow” was perfect, because, not only did it mean work, it also suggested having to plow under and start over again.'”
The hyphens are for decoration, I guess.
The title Glengarry Glen Ross refers to three real estate developments–Glengarry Highlands, Glengarry Farms, and Glen Ross Farms–that either have been or are being hustled by the salesmen in the play. Shelly “the Machine” Levene did a bang-up job selling Glen Ross Farms back in ’65; now he’s down on his luck, and smooth young Richard Roma is cleaning up on the Glengarry properties. As I see it, Glengarry Glen Ross is shorthand for: Glengarry, Glen Ross, Levene, or Roma–what’s the difference? They’re all part of the same sick shit.