Circle Theater stays alive and well, heating up an evening by digging into David Mamet’s 1988 movie-biz zinger Speed the Plow. Dynamic acting talent permeates a tiny corner of a sometimes noisy pizza joint’s back room in Benson. But who gives a crap if there’s audible competition outside the door sealing off the audience from happy diners? The performances validate the visit. Here we have another example of how this tiny, casually-organized theatre company consistently frames first-class talent in good scripts in quality equal to the bigger teams in our fields.
e.g In some kind of Mamet panorama these days , The Playhouse zonked Race to a fare-thee-well 6 months ago. And Blue Barn got every cent’s worth of value out of American Buffalo last month. Speed the Plow, FYI, comes loaded with the same Mamet hilarious verbal games as those recent examples: fast, sizzling guffaw-worthy dialogue, loaded with locker-room epithets while male wheelers and dealers do their damndest to score big. Dames? Yeah, sure. Sometimes they get their turns at bat.
Ryle Smith superbly directed this while also taking one of the three roles. Just three roles? You ask. What the hell? May I remind you that Buffalo didn’t falter with the same amount. Two guys this time stay so loaded with snap and sass that were you to get a couple more like them, you’d have to turn on the air-conditioner to tamp down the sweat. As for the woman in this item, sometimes a quieter, softer voice can become a relief.
Smith makes every word, every gesture, every move count in both his staging and his acting. Put down your slice of Italian delight and hold off swallowing a big gulp of beer, lest you miss something or choke while chortling.
Bob Gould has just moved up in the film industry, becoming head of production at a major Hollywood studio. He has to find sure-fire scripts. Longtime pal and associate, Charlie Fox, glommed onto a new one, a product with major potential. Note the words: industry, production, product. This is not about art. Art is OK but not essential, Mamet reminds us. Collecting dust in the ongoing renovation of Charlie’s office is a book which might have potential, should Bob ever read it. Instead, he gets his temp secretary Karen to look it over and come back late at night with her ideas so that he can finagle her into bed. What unfolds that evening, after the sheets, are different kinds of turn-arounds.
Mamet, of course, has Bob and Charlie euphemizing their biz with every kind of sexual image known to man, woman and beast. Cleverly making off-stage real sex seem just another potential power connection. Meanwhile Mamet pointedly has that book deal with a poisoned environment, a world in decay. Zap.
Smith’s Charlie stays edgy and frenetic. A motor-mouthed dynamo who still retains the immense awareness to listen and react. He moves, he jumps, he grins, he grimaces. All believable. A character study not to be missed.
As Bob, Robert Baker comes across with equivalent vitality. He also capably projects a subtle kind of sleaze, especially when grinningly encouraging Karen to pour her heart out, awaiting getting near those breasts nearby. Mamet has written Bob with a slightly vulnerable undertone, as if Bob may not be a full time cut-throat. Thereby could hang a death trap. See if you catch that in Baker’s take.
Beth Paprocki plays almost-earnest Karen convincingly, but remains overshadowed by the two dynamos who nearly own the stage.
Smith, by the way, wrote a few good program notes. Kudos.
As for the play’s title, Mamet explains that he remembered a saying about work and farming: “Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow,” adding that it also means having plow and plow again . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed-the-Plow
Consuming pizza, beer or other culinary standbys is not a requirement of this visit to the former dinner theatre company’s newest offering. But, if you have had an appetite for more Mamet, be assured, Circle Theater serves it up with style.
Speed the Plow presented by Circle Theatre continues through Nov. 22 at Pizza Shoppe Benson, 6056 Maple St. 8 p.m. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10-15. 402-553-4715