The Column Online



by David Mamet

The Basement

Directed by Jeff Swearingen
Scenic design by Clare Floyd DeVries
Lighting design by Brandon Cunningham
Costume design by Bren Rapp

Bobby Gould - Doak Campbell Rapp
Charlie Fox - Chris Rodenbaugh
Karen - Taylor Donnelson

Reviewed Performance: 5/30/2015

Reviewed by Juliana Adame , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

David Mamet first bestowed Speed-the-Plow upon the theatre community in 1988, going on to receive both a Tony and Pulitzer Prize nomination. The play is a satirical dissection of Hollywood and the American movie business, and the men who make it the nasty, cut-throat environment that it is. The original production cast featured Joe Mantegna as Gould; Ron Silver, who won a Tony for his performance as Fox; and Madonna as Karen. Other notable actors who have taken part in various other productions include Alicia Silverstone, Jeremy Piven, Elisabeth Moss, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Lindsay Lohan.

Recently appointed Head of Production of a big-time Hollywood movie company, Bobby Gould sits at his desk, only to be interrupted by his longtime associate Charlie Fox. Fox delivers the news that big Hollywood star Doug Brown came to him directly, wanting to star in a new movie. They arrange a meeting with the studio head for the next morning, then go on to discuss Fox’s long-time loyalty- this could finally be his big break. In due course, they also begin discussing a script, which Gould has been instructed to give “a courtesy read”, because it is not being seriously considered for the big time. It is here where we first meet Karen, Gould’s temporary secretary. The two men begin talking with her about the movie business and their history together. Once she is gone, Fox teases Gould about trying to seduce Karen, betting him five hundred dollars. Karen later agrees to meet Gould later at his house, but not before Gould gives her the courtesy read for her to read herself. Events transpire, and the true nature of everyone and everything may not be as it appears.

Jeff Swearingen’s direction is no-frills, no-nonsense, which is fitting for Mamet’s fast talking world. Under his direction, his actors are completely organic and comfortable, making for honest theatre and a sharp performance.

The design of the show as a whole is one giant puzzle put together masterfully: the set, designed by Clare Floyd DeVries, and costumes, designed by Bren Rapp, are simple, but effective- all black, but for a pop of bold color (red, pink, blue, orange) here and there, perfect for a show demanding power, but not without captivation by means of the unraveling of humanity.

The company of three is composed of actors all under the age of eighteen, but with a skill set well beyond their years. Rapp is a commanding force as Gould, with a secret agenda and the fast-talking mouth of DeNiro. To his right is Rodenbaugh, for whom it is absurd for a seventeen year old to be as scummy as the character of Fox. The two are powerhouses in their own, but also banter and play off one another like classic theatre duos of old. With all of this quick dirty dealing, Donnelson’s Karen is a breath of fresh air: she is professional, sweet, but also smart, but not without a little darkness herself. All actors are a force to be reckoned with, yet a storm of their own with theatrical chops to give actors further in years a run for their money. These are performances not to be missed, by aspiring actors and Mamet fans alike.

Part of Fun House’s Rep Run, which also includes Sam Shepard’s True West, Speed-the-Plow is a true spectacle, with a killer cast to boot now playing in the Black Box. It is a whirlwind of performances in a world beyond their years, yet, somehow just right. Cheers to all involved.

Fun House Theatre and Film (part of Plano Children’s Theatre)
1301 Dolphin Drive #706
Plano, TX 75075
(Your GPS may also tell you Custer Road. Go to the entrance of Plano Children’s Theatre and turn left, and up the stairs for the Black Box.)

Runs through June 6th

Final weekend June 6th, All at 7:30 (check website for details)

Tickets are $8; available on the site

For information and to purchase tickets, go to, or call 972-357-5092.