Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Jungle Theater Speed-The-Plow

Tim McGee and Heidi Bakke
David Mamet has spent his career dancing between the worlds of the stage and screen, crafting classic works in both forms. For Speed-the-Plow, he brought the two together, creating a cautionary tale about ambition and the dearth of creativity in Hollywood. Nearly 20 years on, the show has lost some of its impact, but a talented cast and a strong creative team for the Jungle Theatre's new production finds life in the show's old bones.

The play follows two longtime colleagues and producers: Bobby Gould (Tim McGee) has just started as a top executive at an unnamed studio, and Charlie Fox (Steve Sweere) comes in with a hot tip —a chance to produce a cheesy prison-buddy picture with one of filmdom's biggest stars, who is willing to leave his longtime studio behind to do the film.

The art side of the equation comes from Karen (Heidi Bakke), a young temp in Bobby's office. On a bet, he has her read a literary novel about the end of the world. His plan is to get her into bed, but the relationship deepens as they discuss the book and art of making movies.

The playwright is playing with a lot of topics here, mainly focused on how Hollywood is ready to turn anything into a product, be it an awful-sounding prison flick or a pretentious "legitimate" novel. Toss in lots of personal politics, from the man-to-man relationship between Gould and Fox to the is-it-love-or-is-it-just-taking-advantage one between Gould and Karen (one guess as to where Mamet, the eternal cynic, ends up here.)

Mamet's play isn't without its troubles. Over the past 20 years, there have been a slew of shows, films and television programs looking inside Hollywood, so there really aren't any surprises here. Thankfully, Mamet's characters work. While there isn't a likeable one in the group, they are drawn with enough shades to keep each of them from being one-note villains (like in a lot of Mamet, you won't find a hero here).

The actors, in turn, plumb the depths of their characters, rounding them out with their own layers. The opening scene between Gould and Fox starts out slowly, but that's more to Mamet's stilted dialogue as opposed to McGee and Sweere's performances. McGee struts through the first scene, legs wide apart, showing that he's the alpha male here. His characterization changes in the second scene, where he sits on his couch with Karen, slowly becoming more tender in his portrayal. By the play's end, McGee has come full circle, but clearly shows that the character is different than before. Sweere and Bakke have characters with more limited changes, but both bring them to life.

Director Bain Boehlke does his familiar fine job here, giving the actors plenty of space to develop their roles, but also making sure there is plenty of snap. In the end, Speed-the-Plow works more from the hard work of everyone on and behind the stage, as opposed to what they started with in the script.

Speed-the-Plow runs through October 14 at the Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. For tickets and more information, call 612-822-7063 or visit

Photo: Michal Daniel

- Ed Huyck

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