Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson

In David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow, hugely bankable star Doug Brown agrees to appear in a sure-fire commercial hit, and film producers Bobby Gould (Craig Erickson) and Charlie Fox (Aaron Craven) are convinced that this is their lucky break.

When temporary secretary Karen (Kayla Deorksen) derails their dream movie by persuading Bobby to dump the blockbuster in favour of a story which can only be described as box-office poison, Charlie is forced to resort to desperate measures.

This well-known and often-mounted David Mamet play starts with Bobby’s recent promotion to the studio’s Head of Production. Charlie’s been at his side for 11 faithful years, and enters the office brimming with excitement as Doug Brown literally walked across the street to Charlie’s house to say he’d do their film. Now all that’s left for Bobby to do is green-light the production.

Lots of wit gets fired off between the two colleagues as they build momentum to take a meeting with their boss, studio head Richard Ross.

In the meantime, a book has been sent Bobby’s way for a courtesy read. This horrible-idea-for-a-movie has been sitting idle on his desk, until Bobby asks the temp (Karen) to give it a read and report back to him later that evening. She leaves the office and Fox begins to tease Bobby, convinced he’d try to seduce her. A $500 bet is made by the men, Bobby certain that he can win the bet. Typical Hollywood film industry banter, thus.

Craig Erickson, Kayla Deorksen
[Craig Erickson, Kayla Deorksen]

Later that night, the scene changes to an intimate, dimly-lit apartment with a city view, with Karen and Bobby on the couch sipping wine. He’s trying to follow her hyper-enthusiasm over the book, but having a hard time staying awake. Her original entrance into the play paints her as somewhat naïve and new to the Hollywood scene, however there’s more to it than meets the eye with this gal.

The next morning, things have drastically changed. Charlie can’t believe what he’s hearing, and is livid, becoming more aggressive by the moment. The wedge driven between the two men by Karen becomes painfully evident, and she’s called into the office to reveal her motive behind wanting the horrible book made into a film. When things turn back once again, it’s evident that boys stick together in this biz and Bobby, aka an “old whore”, really doesn’t piss on money but sleeps with it.

Aaron Craven, Craig Erickson

The stage consists of two rooms at either side: Bobby’s office (with a Hollywood view backdrop on the wall) and his apartment (also adorned with a killer city view). Set Designer David Roberts succeeds in keeping the two main scenes separate but close enough on the small Studio 16 stage to portray a sleazy lifestyle that easily morphs from business deals to evening flirtations.

Jeremy Piven once performed the role of Bobby on Broadway, and I can easily imagine Ari Gold in this choice role. Craig Erikson does a commendable job of schmoozing and scheming, while Aaron Craven plays the whiney childlike assistant to his boss. He got under my skin in a slightly irritating way at times, but fits Charlie’s mocking, selfish character traits to a t.

Kayla Deorksen gets the job done, coming across as a powerful, intelligent woman when necessary. In the end though, we realize that it’s every man (and woman) for themselves — Hollywood thrives in that soul-sucking way.

Directed by David Mackay, Mitch and Murray Productions’ Speed-the-Plow continues through November 29 at Studio 16 Theatre at 1555 West 7th Avenue in Vancouver.

Photos by Shimon Karmel.

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