S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

Speed the Plow

The Old Vic has been packing in audiences since the beginning of February when Speed the Plow opened. The line for returns wrapped around the corner of the building when I arrived. A one act, three scene play with a cast of three, it boasts serious star power. Jeff Goldblum plays a newly-promoted head of production at a Hollywood studio. Kevin Spacey plays a would-be producer who has an easy-to-sell offer for the studio, starring a major actor. Laura Michelle Kelly completes the cast, playing the temporary secretary who goes out of her way to seem naive about the whole business.

The script is by David Mamet. I don't know that I've seen any of his other work, but I certainly know of him as one of the world's foremost satirists-in-play-form. Thing is, satirizing business practice in Hollywood is like shooting ducks in a barrel. It's too easy. Because it's too easy, the barrier for achieving insight is far higher than for many other topics, and as a result, the topic never achieved anything sublime for me. It was too pat, too obvious. The sure moneyearner vs. the incomprehensible communing with the nature of the universe plot for a potential movie to promote. Everyone in Hollywood has an agenda.

Kevin Spacey was easily my favorite part of the show - he occupied the character, and has wonderful control of his limbs and twitches. That sounds wrong - he twitched only appropriately, not compulsively. Jeff Goldblum has good comedic timing, but was less interesting as a serious character. I don't know how much of it was Kelly's interpretation and how much the character, but I found her hypersweet earnestness almost sickly. It could have been the satire, but I didn't fully appeciate it. I was also distracted by a heavy-handed by-product of the casting. Goldblum is insanely tall, a good eight to ten inches taller than Spacey. Spacey, in turn, was a good eight to ten inches taller than Kelly. That dramatic height differential mirrored their respective nominal power roles within the play.

It's a fine, competent play and production. Spacey was impressive. I'm glad I've seen it. But I liked last night's play better.
Tags: theater

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