Friday, December 7, 2018

Speed-the-Plow--Asylum Theatre—SE Portland

      Souls For Sale!

    This dark comedy of David Mamet’s play is directed by Don Alder.  It is playing at the Shoebox space, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through December 23rd.  For more information, go to their site at

    This has all the earmarks of a Faustian fable, in which you sell your soul for fame and wealth and power.  The place—Tinseltown; The Time—Forever and a Day; The Main Characters—Gould (Jason Maniccia, Artistic Director for the company), a promising, mid-executive, production head of a movie company; Fox (Danny Bruno), an aggressive, oily little man with dreams of grandeur; And Karen (Briana Ratterman), an attractive, ambitious secretary, who just wants to carve out a little piece of the American Dream for herself.

    The dilemma—producing an artistic work vs. a commercial piece.  The price—one’s Soul (Integrity, Worth, Morality, etc.,) all the good things that make up a Man.  “What profit a Man if he gains the World, but loses his Soul.”  These three individuals, are a microcosm, perhaps, of this Industry (and the business world, too).  As they step to the edge of the Abyss, and look down into its depths, they may have been surprised to find that something was looking back at them, also!  And, as they teetered there, to take the plunge, or not, they chose…ah, but you’ll just have to see it for yourselves, won’t you, to discover the outcome?!

    I’ve given you a nutshell, as to the story, but Mamet is a writer that needs to be heard to be savored.  His rapid-fire, over-lapping dialogue (in which he is manic as to an actor uttering every single stutter, pause and hic-cup in his phrasing) and, thus, one needs to see/hear it to appreciate this master.  And, as for authenticity in his story, he, himself, has been on the inside tract as to his material getting produced, so he knows from whence he speaks.

    Also, a personal note, I have written plays/screenplays, too, and one time was lucky enough to know someone who knew a reader at a studio, so I sent her my script.  She thoroughly enjoyed it, she said, but told me the secret to getting a screenplay optioned was to mirror the format of what was financially successful the year before.  That last thought is reiterated in his script, too.  The moral is then, I suppose, to be a copycat (or lemming) and follow the like-minded over the precipice.

    Alder and his cast certainly understand Mamet’s format and, I’m sure, he would be impressed with this production.  The cast is outstanding and I don’t envy them in learning his lines.  This is an intimate setting and I felt that I was intruding on their space, as the characters were so immersed and believable in their roles.  Each one of their characters has a hidden self, which will be revealed by the end of the play.  Maniccia, a man in charge and sure of his direction, or….  Bruno, a loyal friend, who has an “offer you cannot refuse” for his buddy, but….  And Ratterman, the newbie, who champions for the artist, until….  All excellent!

    I highly recommend this play.  There were only three people in the house the night I saw it and they deserve full houses for this!  Don’t miss this one.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


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