Local Mamet production shames Hollywood

Everything on stage is for sale. Including the sofa, carpet, original art and morality. David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow is a capitalist love affair between Bob Gould (Aaron Nelken) and Charlie Fox (Eric Epstein).

Everything on stage is for sale.

Including the sofa, carpet, original art and morality.

David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow is a capitalist love affair between Bob Gould (Aaron Nelken) and Charlie Fox (Eric Epstein).

And by putting the set up for sale, it’s hard to tell if the Whitehorse Theatre Ensemble just needs cash, or if it’s paying homage to Mamet’s world of money and movies, where everything can be bought, including your beliefs.

Sitting in the dark, while 20th Century Fox theme music blasts through the theatre, there is a momentary genre lapse.

It suddenly feels like you’re at the movies, not the Guild Hall in Porter Creek.

Then, the lights flood on.

And it’s Hollywood.

In a slick suit, legs apart, casually chewing gum, Nelken gives Gould just the right amount of macho confidence, tempered with the kowtowed history of a man that’s been fighting his way toward the top for decades.

He’s in a new office, highlighted by the splattered paint bucket and plastic covering the couch.

It’s a simple set that supports the actors without getting in the way.

Enter former colleague Fox, there to bring Gould a movie deal that will change everything.

Fox is dapper, dressing up for this big game called business.

And Epstein’s cloying portrayal is both endearing and repugnant.

It’s a virile, macho world where bravado wins contracts and sexism lands ladies.

And as soon as the snappy dialogue takes off, the audience leans forward and remains perched on the edge of their seats for the rest of the production.

Fox has landed a star for a crappy film script.

And in one simple line, he sums up his hopes and dreams – to be “a cog no more.”

Speed-the-Plow was inspired by a saying Mamet saw on old mugs and plates: “Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow,” according to an interview in the Chicago Tribune.

The play deals in this business of business and its honest portrayal is both hilarious and terrifying.

Mamet tosses in lines like “little lambsie divey.”

But it takes a stellar cast to pull it off, creating unexpected bursts of laughter.

Nelken and Epstein dance through the dialogue.

Director Sarah Rodgers keeps the pacing perfect, forming a relentless, witty banter that is both believable and riveting.

The men, excited by the next rung they are about to climb have just resorted to fondly calling each “whore,” when the temp joins them on stage.

Karen (Jessica Hickman) is cute and idealistic, a foreigner in this cutthroat, muscular world.

Hickman starts off a little too wide-eyed.

But she soon finds her footing, giving Karen’s naivety the depth and hope it deserves.

In a world where movies need to be able to be summed up in one sentence so they can “be put in TV Guide,” and where films aren’t supposed to “change us,” Karen stands out.

She believes in truth and love.

And it comes across as flaky.

This is Mamet’s brilliance.

Before you realize it, you’re rooting for the bad guys.

The questions come later.

It’s a smart, tough script.

And without the solid performances of Nelken, Epstein and Hickman, it wouldn’t fly.

Madonna couldn’t do it on Broadway.

But at the Guild in Whitehorse, the Yukon Theatre Ensemble creates a night of rollicking theatre that shouldn’t be missed.

Speed-the-Plow runs Tuesday to Saturday until January 29th.

Shows start at 8 p.m.

There are 4 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays.

Tickets are available at Whitehorse Motors and at the door.

It’s $24 for Thursday to Saturday evenings and $20 Tuesday, Wednesday and matinees.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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