Starring Ari Cohen, Jordan Pettle, Sarah Wilson. Written by David Mamet. Directed by David Storch. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, to September 22.
In the offices of 1980’s Hollywood movie producers, there isn’t a plow in sight. Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox, the men of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, are the kind of guys who only get their hands dirty over lunch at The Coventry—they’d moisturize their palms before even the idea of a callus formed. But that doesn’t mean they don’t fill their days working and getting worked by others.
As Bobby, a newly promoted film exec, and Charlie, his longtime lackey, Ari Cohen and Jordan Pettle tackle Mamet’s signature spitfire dialogue like a tennis match. They lob a steady volley of one-liners at each other, flowing from playful jibes to searing threats. That is, until a temporary secretary, Karen (Sarah Wilson), gets in the way and threatens to derail their course for riches and glory with pretty words and altruistic goals. But, seeing as this is Mamet, Speed-the-Plow has no heroes and no lessons. The story ends in a moral limbo, leaving the audience to determine who is right and who is wrong in the battle of art versus money, loyalty versus competition, and integrity versus success.
Mamet’s dialogue here is typically thick and fast, and the cast clearly relishes it. Directed by David Storch (who also directed Glengarry Glen Ross for Soulpepper), the tall, dark Cohen, and Pettle, smaller and in a powder-blue suit jacket (costumes well done by Dana Osborne), are well matched in the first act, while Wilson shines in Act 2 as she reveals Karen’s subtle schemes. But by Act 3, the cast slides into manic yelling as they work to cover up the tricky about-face in their relationships and Bobby’s uncharacteristic display of weakness. Despite this fumbled approach to that flaw in the script, the cast’s energy and Storch’s direction prove that with perspiration comes success.