Curtain Up: Speed the Plow at Pinch ‘n’ Ouch Theatre
“Curtain Up” is a weekly performing arts review column exploring the vast and dynamic theater world in Atlanta.
The last time I had a run in with David Mamet I was in school pursuing a worthless degree in theater performance. When I heard that Pinch ‘n’ Ouch was putting on what some consider to be Mamet’s masterpiece, I figured it was a sure bet for something entertaining, or at least, fruitful. I had never read or seen “Speed the Plow” before and thought it was going to be about farming. I was wrong, and kind of kidding.
“Speed the Plow” takes place in the seedy underbelly of the Hollywood movie business. The characters all deal with highs and lows spurned from greed, betrayal and dishonesty. Everyone is in it for themselves and each finds out how truly lonely it is at the top.
I was surprised to find out that Pinch ‘n’ Ouch is housed in the basement of a church. My companion to this play angrily growled into my ear upon arrival, “If you brought me to a church play, I’m going to kill you.” Luckily during the first two minutes, curse words and non-virginal gestures were taking place all over the stage. I breathed an audible sigh of relief as one of the characters mockingly gave oral sex to another. From what I remembered of Mamet’s work, I couldn’t picture a Jesus-downed version being very successful.
Jayson Smith who played Bobby Gould, a big shot producer, stole the show. He had an ease on stage that the other two actors took a few beats to warm into. He fit the character of a weasley, in it for the money, sex and recognition type perfectly. But he also showed a lot of depth when he is forced to make a choice and ends up finding out that he wasn’t the only one playing games.
Robert Mello, who played Gould’s colleague Charles Fox, came on stage feeling a bit rehearsed but once he got going, he really came alive. His energy and brashness as Fox fit the role of Gould’s counterpart. They were complete opposites, both hungry for the same thing, but going after it in different ways. Where Gould was cool, calm and collected, letting his charm open doors, Fox was anxious and crazed, knowing that this could be his last meal ticket.
The three person cast was rounded out by Gould’s temporary assistant Karen, played by Jackie Costello. A seemingly meek and innocent girl, who the audience thinks is getting seduced by Gould. Needless to say, the quiet voice and shy temperament are a facade and Gould is not the only one taking advantage of a situation.
“Speed the Plow” demonstrates the ugliness that occurs behind the scenes. It shows us an honest glimpse of the “Entourage” based ideas we have of what goes on in Hollywood. It is gritty and true, and has a present day commentary on society and entertainment. The raw moments are balanced out with humorous notes during Gould’s tempting of his temp, and Fox’s breathless rants. Under Grant McGowen’s direction this is the kind of show that makes you think and starts a conversation, like all good art should.
Pinch ‘n’ Ouch Theatre, located at 1085 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, is running “Speed the Plow” until April 29. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.pnotheatre.org.