Monday, February 23, 2009

Speed-The-Plow (The SOB Review)

Speed-The-Plow (The SOB Review) - Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York, New York

***1/2 (out of ****)

When David Mamet's good, he's just about as stimulating and entertaining as any playwright can be. He's the real deal.

In Neil Pepe's astounding and absorbing revival of Mamet's gutbusting Speed-The-Plow, which sadly ended its limited run yesterday at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre, this is almost as good as it gets. Almost.

Long overshadowed and obscured by all those crazy stories of Jeremy Piven's alleged mercury poisoning, Speed-The-Plow seemed a little rough around the edges when I took it in on Saturday, in part because William H. Macy -- the second actor in as many months to take over Piven's juicy role as Bobby Gould -- didn't yet seem to have fully inhabited the character. Macy was good, but he couldn't outfox the monumentally stunning Raúl Esparza as Charlie Fox as they sparred over Hollywood scripts and Tinseltown's ability -- or lack thereof -- in making cinematic art.

Once again, Esparza is an amazing revelation. While I keep hope alive that this immensely gifted actor will someday return to musicals -- he's now two-for-two in the drama department and is a smashing success. There's simply no denying his unqualified acting capabilities regardless of whether a tuner or a straight play. The man is a genius, consistently delivering an excellent performance and then some.

Rounding out the trio as the deceptive Karen is Elisabeth Moss in a wickedly funny Broadway debut. Let's hope we see more of her around the Great White Way.

If only I had seen the show earlier in its run, I could have provided some pithy comment about speeding to see this great work. Instead, I'll encourage you to cheer on Esparza for what is sure to be a well-deserved Tony nod.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 27 May, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

Hey Steve,
I wish I liked this play more than I did.

Part of it was, I didn't find Jeremy Piven or Elisabeth Moss very compelling. I didn't think Piven's character would do something that threatened his career and I didn't find Moss so wily or seductive that she could have convinced him to do that.

But what saved it for me and made Speed-the-Plow worth seeing was Raul Esparza's performance. I definitely agree with what you wrote. This was my first time seeing him on stage and I thought he was awesome. His character's growing desperation at the end of the play was thrilling to watch.

I wish I could have seen it with William H. Macy. I would have seen a different play and it might have worked better for me.


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