THEATER J LAUNCHES THE SEASON WITH DAVID MAMET’S SPEED-THE-PLOW STARRING TWO BROADWAY VETERANS
(Washington, DC) –Theater J officially kicks off its 2007-2008 mainstage season with a rare opportunity to see David Mamet’s biting Hollywood comedy SPEED-THE-PLOW running October 18―November 25, 2007 in the Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater at the Washington DCJCC. Press night takes place Sunday, October 21 at 7:30 pm. The Pay-What-You Can preview is Thursday, October 18 at 7:30 pm with a limited number of free tickets available on the League of Washington Theatre’s website (www.lowt.org) as part of the Theatre Communications Group sponsored national Free Night of Theater. Limited tickets are also available through Free Night of Theatre for Saturday, October 20 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, October 21 at 3:00 pm.
Nearly twenty years after its premiere on Broadway (which starred Joe Mantegna, Ron Silver and Madonna in her stage debut) David Mamet’s intricate comedy about getting films green-lighted in Hollywood shows no need for Botox as it proves itself just as sharp and cutting as ever. Producer Bobby Gould must decide whether to give the go ahead to yet another bad action flick guaranteed to be a blockbuster or produce an earnest, apocalyptic novel that changes his life but will almost certainly flop. A masterwork skewering of the film industry, SPEED-THE-PLOW is a hilarious close-up of art being sacrificed to commerce in a market where, as Gould puts it, "it's our business to make what everyone else was making last year.”
Theater J’s production features experienced Broadway hands Peter Birkenhead and Danton Stone as the Chicago boyhood buddies turned would-be moguls, while local rising star Meghan Grady takes on the role of the beautiful but calculating secretary. Birkenhead comes to Theater J from Los Angeles where recent TV credits include “House” and “ER,” and from Broadway where he is best known for his roles in Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound, as well as two years on the road in the national tour of Angels in America. Danton Stone has had recurring roles on the hit shows “My So-Called Life” and “thirtysomething” and has performed on Broadway in the Tony-Award winning revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest while creating roles in the world premiere productions of Lanford Wilson’s 5th of July and Angels Fall. Birkenhead and Stone were also both integrally involved in Circle Repertory Company, one of the leading Off-Broadway theatres and the artistic home of playwright Lanford Wilson; Birkenhead as a member of the experimental Circle Rep Lab and Stone as a seminal company member. Meghan Grady, who plays the manipulative love interest, Karen, was last seen at Theater J in Thomas Keneally’s Either Or and The Dybbuk, co-produced with Synetic Theatre where she is a company member.
With two choice leading roles played by powerhouse Broadway actors, Artistic Director Ari Roth predicts “It’s going to be a Master Class in hip, edgy acting on stage every night! And Meghan Grady is going to stand these two pros on their ears!”
Director Jerry Whiddon, former artistic director of Round House Theatre, is thrilled to be taking on Mamet for the first time while making his Theater J directorial debut. Whiddon, whose recent directing credits include Orson’s Shadow and The Pavilion at Round House Theatre comments, “This play is so smart, so cutting, and so skillfully vicious in what it’s saying about human nature, I’d only do it with top-caliber actors. Fortunately, we got ‘em!”
Roth elaborates on the decision to bring back Mamet's Hollywood examination: “It's important to acknowledge that the mindsets of Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox are voices that dwell within all of us, both as artists and audiences; that we're at war with our desires to pursue more commercial, success-proven fare and our impulses to blaze a trail and be in the presence of truly challenging, transformative art. We love the music of this play; the gleeful ferocity of all that pent-up male frustration. And we love that off-stage “East Coast Sissy Writer” who's written the un-filmable novel that represents something of our rarefied, not-for-profit art world sensibility. Mamet lays waste to the do-gooder ethos, only to confer on it a new integrity when Karen, the temporary secretary, discovers in the East Coast Writer something prophetic about our contemporary condition. Certainly she hits the bull's eye in naming Bobby Gould's rootless miasma, adrift in a valueless, idolatry-soaked Hollywood.”
In short, Theater J has picked this play not so much because it has something poisonous to say about Hollywood but because it’s got something bitterly incisive to say about our age. Roth continues, “We have become as consumed as Bobby and Charlie by the lure of box office lucre. We’re just as anxious about the bottom line as our Tinsel Town brethren. I think this play will speak to us all.”
To further explore the body of David Mamet’s work and his critical commentary on the film industry, Theater J and Washington DCJCC’s Screening Room present Mamet In/On Movies, screenings of two of Mamet’s films in the Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater. The hilarious satire about political Washington spin-doctors Wag the Dog, will be shown on Monday, October 22, at 7:30. On the following Monday, October 29, at 7:30 pm, will be the mocumentary State and Main, which portrays a group of Hollywood producers who are trying to film a movie in a small Vermont town. Tickets for Screening Room events are available at (800) 494-TIXS or at www.boxofficetickets.com for $10. Sunday afternoon Artistic Director’s Roundtable Discussions, which will take place every Sunday at 5 pm, will also complement the run of SPEED-THE-PLOW, with panels on topics including Mamet’s most recent writings about Jewish identity as espoused in his new book, The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred, and the Jews.
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