I read a blurb somewhere that said, “David Mamet is one of the most distinctive voices in modern American drama.” He is – well, perhaps one of the loudest voices.
Four-letter interjections punctuate so much of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Oleanna” that one might never know they are literary drama. Thankfully, Theatre UCSB’s production of “Speed-the-Plow” didn’t disappoint in this aspect, though I did leave with some unanswered questions.
The first question is for the sound designer: why were we listening to so much Van Morrison during the introduction and scene changes? The first selection was a live, upbeat version of “Moondance,” in which Van Morrison sounded old. Really old. Gone are the days of the virile Irish soul singer, I guess. The entr’acte into the second act featured the album recordings of “Crazy Love” and “I Will Be There,” which I suppose fit, as the second act is the most emotionally tender. The third entr’acte however, reverts to the original recording of “Moondance,” perhaps to reflect the true (albeit static) natures of the characters. But I wonder if this was intentional, or if someone in the drama department is just a really big Van Morrison fan and I’m just reading into things like a good little college boy.
Mamet’s loudness was a little confusing during the first act when we meet Bob Gould and Charles Fox, a recently-promoted film producer and his underling friend, played by Chad Amsel and Matt Jared. Neither initially seem to reflect the world-weariness that lines appear to contain, though Jared delivers the loudness that I’ve come to love and expect from Mamet’s work. He projects – well, sometimes shouts – with a testosterone-filled headiness that revealed much of Fox’s frustration that Gould is higher up at the studio, though they started working together in the mail room. When he enters Gould’s office, excited about nabbing a big star to appear in a prison film, however, I couldn’t tell whether he was excited or angry. Amsel on the other hand, exhibited the subtlest of smarm, though it seemed a little too youthful to be appropriate.
Enter Karen, the temporary secretary, played by Teri Kretz. Her first appearance is enigmatic and I wondered why she was even there at first. I got the impression that Karen is supposed to be fresh-faced and na