There’s a much-quoted line in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow about how women and men gain success. If the play’s two anti-hero film producer leads are to be believed, men work and women fuck. It’s killer Mamet – and get behind that fragile view of the sexes for a second and you’ll basically get Lindsay Lohan’s role in the play as Karen, studio boss Richard Ross’s secretary set on turning a crap novel she’s backing into a movie against the will of Richard and Bobby Guild, Richard’s partner-in filmic crime. Together, they’re out to make another rubbish box office hit and make piles of cash.
In its bare bones, Speed-the-Plow is prime Mamet: swaggy, current and verbally biting, if not verbose. It’s a succinct and damning view of Hollywood politics and a probing of the fallibility of the masculine form. But with the spotlight on Lohan, that naughties starlet of tabloid tirades, it is hard for the slant of the play to not somehow shift. It’s partially due to the iPhone crowd papping her at the curtain, and partly due to her being actually not bad at all.
That considered, she does only have one enlivened scene, but when she’s on, she performs her simple role sturdily and her presence – not just her star one – constantly dilutes Richard Schiff and Nigel Lindsay’s disappointing and dazed leads. She quietly succeeds in manoeuvring her standby role into something slightly more.
Although by its close the male leads manage to look like I’d conceivably imagine screwed-over film producers would look, they still don’t stave off a disappointing need to whet your palate by the interval. It would be, plainly speaking, more fun than watching these two, who together have less than a flicker of Hollywood movie spark between them.
It doesn’t quite tire the play out. Schiff and Lindsay by the play’s end manage to re-create the look I’d conceivably imagine screwed-over film producers may look like, but that doesn’t stave off the disappointing need to whet your palate with alcohol by the interval. It would be, plainly speaking, more fun than watching these two, who together have just a mere flicker of ‘90s Hollywood spark and ball-busting chemistry between them.
The good news is that it’s pretty hard to make the experience of watching Speed-the-Plow a dull one. It’s romp-y script and short running time mean even the limpest of productions are over quickly enough, but that doesn’t make this sluggish play much fun. Let’s be thankful for Lohan: she ups the fun and, at her best, briefly introduces elements of genuine Mamet snarl.