Speed the Plow

Rated 4.0

We currently have two dark, biting plays about the Hollywood meat grinder gracing local stages: Douglas Carter Bean’s recent comedy The Little Dog Laughed at the B Street Theatre, and now there’s a smaller—but intense—production of David Mamet’s gritty 1988 play Speed the Plow, staged by the Actors Theatre.

The two have elements in common—like ruthless, aspiring co-producers keen to make buckets of money. There are also brief sexual liaisons, quickly followed by an abrupt shift of commitment when involvement in a hit film beckons.

In Speed the Plow, we meet Bobby Gould (actor Mark Heckman), a mid-level producer approached by longtime “friend” Charlie Fox (Anthony Sava) with a marketable idea for a mindless buddy film. Gould’s temp secretary Karen (Tygar Lynn Hicks) is not as dumb as she looks and becomes a factor as well.

Heckman and Sava have a field day with Mamet’s rude, rapid-fire dialogue. And the seduction scene between producer and secretary recalls the line about “who’s zooming who?” But while Mamet offers a bleakly funny look at Hollywood, he doesn’t really maintain that playwrights (or novelists, or others) occupy a morally superior position.

This small-studio production is very much an actors’ piece, with basic lighting, minimal sound design and a simple set.