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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Barrymore


  Raul Esparza and William H. Macy in Speed-the-Plow/PH:Robert J. Saferstein

Seeing the usually hangdog William H. Macy looking so prosperous, one's tempted to believe that, indeed, the apocalypse is at hand. Lithe, dapper, almost debonair, his Bobby Gould is literally the goldenhaired boy of an unnamed Hollywood studio, but Macy's lined face and wariness give the wheeler and dealer made good an underlying edge of fear, a sense that this high-wire act can't be sustained indefinitely. So when Charlie Fox ( Raul Esparza) his brash, bypassed crony cum underling, brings him an exploitative prison buddy flick with a star already attached, Gould's relief is palpable - one more day's reprieve for him, a step up the long ladder for Charlie. Until Karen ( Elizabeth Moss), his temporary secretary, enters the picture and falls in love - with an eminently unfilmable novel about the end of the world.

David Mamet's 1988 fable pits its protagonist between the forces of commercialism and career on the one hand, and a somewhat questionable artistic rebellion, on the other, and Neil Pepe's smart revival has weathered three actors in its central role. Taking over for Jeremy Pivens (who left as the playwright quipped, to pursue a career as a thermometer, after Norbert Leo Butz filled in for a brief stint), Macy imbues the just-arrived Bobby with a greater depth of insecurity than Piven's feckless dude, who seemed simply to meander off his career course. By contrast, Macy's Bobby seems to feel his world rocked not by the sexual openness of his secretary, but by the revelation that is at hand, by Karen's dogma, not her decolletage. The change in emphasis, small but radical, sets his two fellow actors into new relief. Esparza, brilliantly manipulative against Piven's passivity, now seems less Iago-like, more urgent in his supplication and berating of his boss and potential benefactor. But Moss benefits more in her less promising role. As written, Karen's a mystery- her character's motives are murkier than the men's. But Macy's Bobby, whose desperation is closer to the surface, connects more intensely with her idealism. Piven's Bobby gave the impression that when Karen talked he heard "important film, big ideas" but Macy's Bobby seems to see hope for his own redemption in the unmakable movie- a real glimpse of transcendence. When Karen tells him that he doesn't have to be afraid, Macy's Bobby seems indeed to give up the burden.


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