We wouldn’t wish mercury poisoning on anyone, but at least something good came out of the whole Jeremy Piven sushi scandal: the chance to see William H. Macy give a master class in playing David Mamet.
After Piven’s abrupt mid-December departure, Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) stepped into the starring role of movie mogul Bobby Gould; now, Macy is at the helm. And what was, with Piven, an enjoyable if spotty revival of Mamet’s pithy but meandering drama has morphed into a giddy, near-perfect evening of entertainment.
There’s no finer interpreter of Mamet’s profane, staccato dialogue than Macy (see: American Buffalo, Oleanna, Bobby Gould in Hell, American Buffalo), and his expertise elevates the entire production. Saddled with the hopelessly underwritten role of Karen, the ”naive” secretary, Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss had been drowning in the second scene, a mélange of monologue upon monologue that’s part pitch meeting, part mating ritual, and mostly nonsensical (her method of seduction: reciting the plot summary of a book called The Bridge: or, Radiation and the Half-Life of Society. A Study of Decay). Yet with Macy sitting across from her, Moss has found her way. Raúl Esparza — as high-strung studio exec Charlie Fox — was always terrifically manic; now, he knows where to pull back (e.g., to Karen: “Who are you? Some broad from the Temporary Pool. A Tight P—y wrapped around ambition”). And Macy and Esparza’s verbal volleying makes for thrilling spectator sport; they’re like Agassi and Sampras in suits. Would that they could spar for longer! Speed-the-Plow’s limited run ends Feb. 22. (Tickets: Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200) A?