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Mamet mayhem; 'Speed-the-Plow' in good hands at Subversive Theatre

For reasons explainable and not, Western New Yorkers like the plays of David Mamet.

Go figure. Mamet's characters are generally despicable, conniving and pathetic, with vocabularies straight from the street, full of crackling vitriol and remarkable FBPM combinations -- that's F-bombs per minute -- and what Newsweek's Jack Kroll once called "scatological buckshot."

"American Buffalo," "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," "Oleanna," "Glengarry Glen Ross" -- we dutifully see them, cringing, marveling at Mamet-speak, the potency of his words, the energy and electricity of live theater.

And then there's the profane "Speed-the-Plow," a quarter-century old and just now in revival at the Manny Fried Playhouse, produced by Subversive Theatre Collective in collaboration with Trajicom Productions. Stellar period-piece actor Christopher Standart directs Timothy Patrick Finnegan, Kevin Craig and the ubiquitous Andrea Andolina in this blistering broadside on Hollywood, screenwriters and a particular Tinseltown target, the often nefarious "Head of Production."

Briefly, the story. Charlie Fox, wannabe Hollywood mover and shaker, has been toiling in the trenches for a decade, chasing down scripts, hoping for the hit of his dreams. A testosterone-driven prison story -- mayhem, murder, blood, gore -- falls into his lap and Charlie takes it to newly minted, big-time production chief Bobby Gould. In between snorting coke, Bobby decides that he will "green light" Charlie's idea to his boss.

On Bobby's desk is a book, a serious one about radiation dangers and the "half-life of society," a work scheduled for a "courtesy read" and then the circular file.

A substitute secretary, Karen, ogled by Charlie and Bobby, becomes interested in the book. Bobby suggests that she read it and report on it to -- well, can you drop by my house tonight? Karen, seemingly naive, does so, and makes a pitch for a movie that "makes a difference" rather than the men-behind-bars moneymaker.

Bobby, usually a disciple of famed producer Samuel Goldwyn, who famously said, "Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union," decides to betray Charlie -- the beauteous Karen stays the night, a strong motivation. But with the dawn, everything hits the fan: Charlie rants, Bobby feels differently in the light of day and Karen is found to be complicit. A temp with an agenda. Hooray for Hollywood.

So, lots of greed, backbiting, sex and opportunism. This "Speed-the-Plow" -- the title taken from a 15th century work song praying for prosperity -- is perfect for the talents of actors Finnegan, as laid-back but oily Bobby; the youthful Craig, who owns the last, definitively explosive Mamet scene; and the tempting, deceptive, Eve-like Andolina.

Director Standart sees to it that Bobby and Charlie's spews and spurts do justice to Mamet's crucial cadence, their insecurities obvious in their interruptions and overlapping sentences. Finnegan and Craig improve as the play ages. Mamet is in good hands here.

***

"Speed-the-Plow"    

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

WHEN: Through May 13    

WHERE: Presented by Subversive Theatre Collective in the Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave.    

TICKETS: $15-$20    

INFO: 408-0499, www.subversivetheatre.org