Smile Politely

The New Revels Players Present: Speed-the-Plow


Friday, 26th and Saturday, 27th | 8:00 p.m. | Gregory Hall | $5 at the door

Like most of his work, David Mamet’s 1988 play Speed-the-Plow tackles most of the major literary themes unique to the past thirty years of novel writing (hell, probably the past 300 years for the matter): personal greed, idealism, love, sex, aesthetics, etc. In this short saga, Mamet uses the entertainment industry as a trope, explicating the way that these very themes have configured themselves in our society, shaping our values, our follies and what we have come to call our nature. Yes, if it were a novel, you would have probably read it in high school — overacheiver that you are. But Plow is not a novel, its a play, which means that if we are to fully experience it we must see it performed.  Lucky, then, that local theater troupe New Revels Players will be doing just that this weekend and this weekend only.

Alex Iambert, Plow‘s director, took some time from his schedule to exchange a few emails with me about what audiences can expect.

Smile Politely: How long has New Revels Players (NRP) been a part of the community?

Alex Iambert: I’m uncertain of when exactly it started, but I know it goes back several years. From its inception until just four years ago, it was strictly limited to doing Shakespeare plays, and then there was a group-wide shake-up and now there is no set theme restricting what we do. We’ve done some Mamet, some Stoppard, and even some student-written work. This semester, in addition to Speed-the-Plow, we’re presenting Mary Chase’s Harvey, a student-written play by Erik Allgood called Dixie, and even Joss Whedon’s internet musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which is one of our most ambitious projects ever. It’s also our first musical, as far as I know.

Smile Politely: Dr. Horrible’s is ambitious!  How in the hell do you plan to pull that off?

Alex Iambert: Dr. Horrible is being directed by Derek Beigh, another member of our troop, so I can’t really speak as to his vision for the show, but I know that his greatest priority is the music of the show, and really bringing out that aspect of it. They’re actually casting that show Thursday the 25th, so we’ll soon have a better idea of what we’ll have in store. I can tell you that there’s a lot of excitement for that show in the group, and hopefully outside of it as well! I know we’ll have no problems filling those spots.

Smile Politely: How many productions do you folks put into motion each year?

Alex Iambert: Our number of productions is not set, and has been steadily climbing since we re-structured. When I joined the group three years ago, we were only doing one show per semester. Last year we bumped that up to two or three, and this semester we’re actually doing four. That’s turning out to be fairly stressful for our talent-base and resources, so I think in the future we may try to limit ourselves to three, but we keep getting more interest from people to do shows that they like, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we packed another semester in the future.

Smile Politely: How did you decide on Speed-The-Plow for your spring production?

Alex Iambert: I came upon Speed-the-Plow as I was reading through Mamet plays to pick one to direct. Last year I directed Glengarry Glen Ross, which I’d say is Mamet’s most famous play, and I’m very fond of his writing style. I feel that when it’s performed well, the characters speak the way people I know speak, with lots of stopping and starting, wit, and profanity. There’s a real velocity to Mamet’s dialogue — you always feel like there’s something going on, even when the characters are just sitting around onstage. Going back to my choice of this particular play, I just got a stack of Mamet from the library, and this was the first one I read. I didn’t need to go any further. I love movies, and Speed-the-Plow is about the industry that makes them; it’s dirty business, run by dirty people doing dirty things. That’s basically what the play is about, and it’s a lot of fun to watch. I think it’s a great way to start off the semester with a bang, because it’s sharp, it’s modern, and like Mamet’s prose, it draws attention to itself. But really, the bottom line is: I chose this play because I like it, and I think it’ll be fun for the audience.

Smile Politely: Great answer. So what can audiences expect to see when they see Speed-the-Plow this weekend?

Alex Iambert: When audiences come to see Speed-the-Plow, they can expect to see–or rather, hear–some of David Mamet’s best word-play, and a thoroughly scathing satire of the film industry. These days, when there are more blockbusters being made than ever and the quality of what people can see at the multiplex is more affected by the figures that film execs have on their desks than ever before, it’s a very relevant play. That’s what’s so great about Mamet’s plays: they’ve proven themselves to stay relevant over time. As far as our production goes, it’s very acting-centric, so audiences will mostly be seeing our actors at work. We have some sets done, but they’re largely servile; it’s not a visual show, but rather one entirely about it’s script.


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