Speed-the-Plow

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Through February 3rd. Tickets are $17-$82; call 749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org.
American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F.

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There's a growing collection of behind-the-scenes Hollywood plays involving coke-addled Tinseltown assholes stomping on good people in their single-minded quests to make celluloid drivel. Speed-the-Plow falls squarely into that category, but David Mamet's writing and Loretta Greco's direction elevates it from clichéd storytelling into a ferocious battle for integrity and career. Essentially a debate between soulful filmmaking versus schlock movie production, Plow pits two Hollywood producers and an idealistic secretary against each other in a battle that, in the end, is physically violent and soul-wrecking. Andrew Polk achieves obsessive and brutal brilliance as the overcaffeinated, amphetamine-driven Charlie Fox trying to strong-arm his hollow action flick into existence. But, as usual, Mamet's flair for language steals the show ("He takes his coffee like he makes his movies — with nothing in it"). Plow's ever-shifting power play of sex, greed and ideology, saturated with the constant question of artistic taste, ultimately gives us a night of viscerally thrilling theater.

 
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