Theater Review: At the speed of satire
DENVER – It’s been some 20 years since David Mamet’s play “Speed the Plow” premiered on Broadway (with, some may recall, Madonna in the role of Karen), but the icky questions the play raises about art versus the almighty dollar may be even more relevant now in the age of “Transformers.” The latest Colorado production is running now at The Bug Theatre in Denver, a production of Modern Muse Theatre Company, and it’s worth the drive if you’ve never seen the play.Modern Muse’s taut production features Summit High grad Erik Tieze – a fixture in the Denver theater scene these many years – in the role of Charlie Fox as a Hollywood boot-licker (or, as Charlie says, “whore”) who stumbles into a too-good-to-be true deal with a big star who’s agreed to be attached to Charlie’s execrable buddy flick (something about prisons). Charlie’s good buddy is Bobby Gould (Len Matheo) – a whore with a new title and the power to green-light films. All’s well until the office temp Karen (Lisa DeCaro) becomes the object of a “betcha can’t” wager between the two men, and Bobby invites her to offer her thoughts on an artsy but absurd book he knows would never make a decent film.One night of bliss later, Bobby is dead set against the prison flick and determined to risk it all on the awful book at Karen’s prodding, setting up a verbal smack-down between the two men that shows off Mamet’s extraordinary, staccato-style dialogue abilities at full power. This is not easy stuff for actors to get their arms (and lips) around – and the same is true for the audience. Words come at you fast, many lines are never completed, and the playwright leaves unspoken thoughts up to the audience to fill in as the next barrage of words come tumbling forth. For an opening night performance, last Saturday’s show was remarkably tight, and Tieze proved himself an able interpreter of Mamet’s verbal juggernaut. Matheo and DeCaro may have been a half-step behind in spots, although I’ve no doubt their performances will improve with another night or two in front of an audience.”Speed the Plow” is funny, but not often laugh-out-loud so. It’s an indictment of Hollywood by a guy who’s made plenty of his own in Tinseltown, and there’s nothing particularly revealing about the fact that, in the end, money wins over art (at least in L.A.). What’s remarkable about this play is Mamet’s ability to create such an in-your-face pressure cooker in such a short space of time (the play is performed in about 90 minutes with no intermission). The stakes go from zero to 60 so quickly after Bobby’s night with Karen that the audience is left nearly as breathless as the actors. Before you know it, Karen’s gone, scores are settled and life goes on as the curtain falls.All told, a nice job by director Lee Massaro and a strong showing by the cast of three.