Monday, October 27, 2008


I would have paid good money to see the London version with Jeff Goldblum and Kevin Spacey.
Instead, I paid a lovely $35 to see the estimable Jeremy Piven and Raul Esparza, via TDF.
It was a Wednesday matinee the day before the opening. I thought I was going to be the only one there. It was packed. Such is the power of Cable TV
In any case, I had never seen this Mamet play and since he is one of my very favorite playwrights, I jumped at the chance. It takes place at a Hollywood studio in the 80's and it is the
power struggle between two studio minions. Of course, one expects Jeremy Piven to know this world inside out, because we love his Ari Gold, probably the most lovable hateful guy in the history of TV. But Piven does not do a live version of Ari Gold. His character in the play is not as brash, not as vulgar and not as intensely driven. He has arrived and wields his power with much more discretion. I thought he was pretty good, though sometimes he seemed to be talking to the audience instead of to the characters. Raul Esparza, who I last saw in The Homecoming, is very good as Fox, the guy who brings in a script to his boss only to see his boss collapse to love and yearning. The direction by Neil Pepe is sprightly and the famously difficult Mamet rhythms are very well navigated by the two male leads. If anything, sitting in the mezzanine I sometimes had trouble understanding Esparza, who shoots a verbal barrage at a vertiginous pace, but not always clearly. The one disappointment is Elizabeth Moss (from Mad Men) as Karen, the secretary. She plays her totally as an ingenue and an innocent, and what could be more boring? She seems very sincere, but I would have liked to see another facet to her.
In the end, this light, feral and funny play is not only about the evil, craven people in Hollywood that we now know so much about. Even though it seems to have aged a little bit, it still resonates beyond its Hollywood milieu since it is about the impossibility of human purity of purpose and as in every Mamet play, the savage dynamics of power. A very swift, enjoyable evening.

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