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Speed-the-Plow at Country Playhouse: a Withering Takedown of Hollywood Insiders

The set-up: David Mamet's 1988 withering, perverse dissection of Hollywood insiders achieves a caustic, take-no-prisoners production at Country Playhouse.

The execution: On his first day as head of production at a nameless studio, Bobby Gould (Trevor B. Cone) greenlights an inane blockbuster that's brought to him by long-time partner and underling Charlie Fox (Jacob Millwee). It's an easy sell with a bankable star, a deal sure to make both men's fame and, much more importantly, fortune. Charlie practically salivates at the thought of it. "We're gonna have to hire somebody to figure out what we're gonna buy," he dreams out loud.

Money and power are what's made in Hollywood, not movies, they're just byproduct. Charlie's so eager for gain, so sure that this is the most fabulous deal ever, that he doesn't even see the derailing roadblock that temp secretary Karen (Mischa Hutchings) throws into both men's path. She throws them a curve neither of them expects. Bobby wants to "do right" by his work, but he's clouded by a lack of fortitude and self-esteem. Karen works her wiles right into his bed. In Mamet's world, the ones at the top possess the least awareness.

Workplace loyalty, male bonding, and Eve in the garden are standard Mamet fare, and while this isn't the best of him (that would be Glengarry Glen Ross), ironic Plow has enough nifty twists and turns all its own -- and nifty turns of phrase, a Mamet specialty -- to warrant a look. It always keeps our interest, especially since stories about backstage Hollywood never lose their seductive allure.

As conflicted Bobby and go-getter Charlie, both Cone and Millwee careen through Mamet's patented elliptic dialogue at break-neck speed, savoring the guys' insightful banter and boys-are-us demeanor. Their partnership is palpable. As hyper Fox, Millwee barges through the play with flailing arms and voice pitched to auction his own grandmother if this deal doesn't work out. He brings out the dread in the comedy.

Hutchings brings out the serpent. As innocent Karen, asked to read an unfilmable book as a "courtesy," she worms her way into Gould's brain. Her actions aren't fully explained, but what vamp's ever are? Hutchings' new-agey hipster is every bit a shark as everyone else. With planned innocence, she plays with her hair and then blows a wisp off her face with staged defiance. Although she breaches the male lair, she's felled by the truth.

The verdict: If you're unfamiliar with Mamet, here's the perfect introduction; a primer into his archetypical male world that's full of bluster, taunts, threats, conceit, and unbridled buddy sex. Hermetically sealed, it's not for the faint of heart. Under Joey Milillo's cohesive direction, Country Playhouse serves him up with a spoon. In Hollywood, it's difficult to tell if the spoon's gold-plate or 24-carat.

Mamet's blistering portrait of Hollywood bigwigs acting small plays through November 17 at Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury. Order tickets online at www.countryplayhouse.org or call 713-467-4497.

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