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Speed-the-Plow Paperback – January 12, 1994
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The style of writing is difficult to follow; e.g. characters constantly interrupting characters in mid-sentence. Read morePublished on September 11, 2010 by Alfred Calsetta
In regards to the plot, a movie producer named Gould is debating with his friend and colleague the importance of money versus art. Read morePublished on May 20, 2010 by D. Sorel
play "speed the plow" - ordered 10/30/08 - received 11/28/08 - received a copy - could have been from amazon - within 3 days after inquiring - returned first order "return to... Read morePublished on December 2, 2008 by David B. Barton