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Speed-the-Plow Paperback – January 12, 1994

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Editorial Reviews


David Mamet's Speed-The-Plow is infinitely more than a brutal satire on Hollywood. It is a study of male panic and the denial of redemptive grace. Michael Billington - Guardian Sitting through a David Mamet play is like being caught in a sudden shower of verbal broken glass. The dialogue is so sharp that it slices the senses and there is an iciness to the darkness of the humour ... his sheer skill with language makes for commanding power. --Daily Express --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet is the author of several plays including American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross (1984 Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Award). His films include Spartan, The Verdict, Homicide, Hannibal. Mr. Mamet is also the author of Warm and Cold, a book for children, as well as essays and poems. His most recent books include the acting books, True & False and Three Uses of the Knife. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 82 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (January 12, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802130464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130464
  • ASIN: 0802130461
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JackOfMostTrades on June 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is probably Mamet's best work, in my opinion, since he focuses on truthful characters without the rather contrived repartee of many of his other plays in which he seems to attempt to develop some metrical dramturgical quirkiness to provide the viewer/reader with a sense of originality. I find Mamet's screenplays usually better than his plays, try The Spanish Prisoner for example. But in Speed the Plow, he provides us with fully fleshed characters who speak like real people (with the necessary artistic license and not so hung up about verbal pyrotechnics. By the way, his style is obviously influenced by studies with Sandy Meisner from the Neighborhood Playhouse. Read the book in the the year of the life of Sandy Meisner "Meisner on Acting" and you'll see the acting exercises that influenced Mamet's writings.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on March 6, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mamet gives us blinding pace in this spare play, a mere 82 pages in print. It can easily be read in an hour. The rapid-fire exchanges between characters put the reader in the position of a rubber-necked viewer at a tennis match between serve-and-volley powerhouses. If merely keeping the reader/viewer engaged is the goal of good theater, Mamet succeeds, in spades.
But truly great theater resonates after the reader has laid the play aside or exited the playhouse. In this regard, "Speed-the-Plow," superior work though it may be, falls just a bit short for me, although I confess I have not seen it performed on stage, and would jump at the chance to do so. In any event, as a piece of reading, the play is too slight in its ideas for me to classify it as top-notch.
The play is built on a simple idea. Two movie execs, Charlie Fox and Bobby Gould, meet in Gould's office. Fox has brought Gould, his superior, a sure-fire hit, which from all we can gather will be a typical piece of Hollywood pap sure to please the masses. Fox has sold the script idea to a big-time Hollywood performer who has given them a short-time to put the deal together.
Enter Karen, Gould's temporary office assistant. Gould has been giving an obtuse, esoteric novel a "courtesy read," and as a ploy to seduce her, Gould asks Karen to read the novel and give him a report on it. Fox offers Gould a friendly bet that he won't succeed with Karen. Somehow -- and this is a key weakness in the play -- Karen manages in the second act to convince the hard-boiled Gould to produce the film of the novel, at the expense of Fox's project.
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This play debuted just after David Mamet directed his first movie, House of Games; it's easy to think the experience left him embittered. The barrages of testosterone-soaked male posturing that dominate plays like Glengarry Glen Ross and American Buffalo are translated to the big-studio film industry. And here we see a device that would become a Mamet standard in the 1990's: a woman enters the men's space and calls them on their baloney sauce.

This play is nuanced and subtexty. What the characters say is less important than what they imply. In this way it's a little like Harold Pinter, and it's especially difficult to get the import just by reading the script. That difficulty is multiplied by the distinctive jagged Mamet-speak of characters who seldom finish a sentence in their rapid, electric dialogue. If you want to study this play as literature, get friends together to read lines. This play absolutely demands actors.

Yet it's intensely rewarding and yields potential for endless discussions. Which character is most venal? Is it better to be honest about venality than to mask it in artistry? What kind of industry reduces humans to interchangeable commodities? All of these conundrums and more are made visible in this play, but it doesn't offer up pat answers. It leaves you hungry to think.

The one fault I find is that it wraps the characters up a little too neatly at the end.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John F. Rooney VINE VOICE on September 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This play on Broadway originally starred Madonna, Joe Mantegna, and Ron Silver. To me David Mamet is an overrated playwright and an underrated screenwriter. The play is going to be revived in the 2008-2009 season along with Mamet's "American Buffalo." They are both slight efforts which pale in comparison to Pinter, Stoppard, Albee etcetera. He puts three characters on the stage and lets them blabber on, but he adds some comedy. Supposedly there's a deep and portentous subtext related to the American psyche.
In this play two movie makers have to decide upon presenting socially significant films or the usual commercial drivel. Karen (Madonna) tries to convince Gould to choose art over commerce by bedding him. Fox tries to persuade Gould that the only reason she acquiesced was to get the art film greenlighted.
Mamet in a New York Times 2008 article says this play belongs to "that particularly American subgenre, the Workplace Drama." In the occupational drama he sets up circumstances in which characters have to choose between two evils. Of Americans he says, "We live to work." This play he says deals with "the difference between Work and Art, and how is one to draw the line."
Of his play Mamet says, it's "a ripping yarn, with a bunch of sex, some nifty plot twists, and a lot of snappy dialogue." For this play I think he's wrong on all four counts. True, in the play business drives out idealism; it's the ruthless versus the toothless, but it's not ripping, nifty, snapping, or sexy.
The title phrase is like a good luck wish for swift and profitable plowing. It's a behest that you speedily plow under and start over. There's dirty work to be done, and somebody has to do it, and if you don't do it, you'll be plowed under and someone else will do it. Why is the movie business garbage? "Why? Why should nickels be bigger than dimes? That's the way it is."
The play does not read well, and it cries out for the voices and gestures of flesh and blood actors.
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