First Peek: Jeremy Piven Debuts On Broadway

The Entourage star is the Box Office draw in a new production of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow—but his lesser-known co-star, Raul Esparza, could prove the show stealer.

The Entourage star is the box office draw in a new production of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow — but his lesser-known co-star, Raul Esparza, could prove the show stealer.

The three happiest faces in New York on Saturday night were those of Jeremy Piven, Elizabeth Moss and Raul Esparza-the stars of the Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow as they came back for yet a second curtain call during the audience's standing ovation at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. It was only the second preview, but the three actors had just given a seamless performance that made it seem as if they were already in the second month of their run. They were hitting on all cylinders as they mined the acrid ore of Mamet's singular cynicism. Though it's much too early to review the production or their performances, I suggest you get your tickets. Now. The big draw, of course, is Piven, the star of HBO's Entourage, who is making his Broadway debut. He plays Bobby Gould, the head of production at a Hollywood studio and a fictional counterweight to Ari Gold, the slick L.A. agent he plays Entourage. When I sat down, two young women next to me were excitedly conversing in a language I could not even decipher except for the word 'Jeremy.'

Despite the hype around Piven, Mamet wrote Esparza’s character, Charlie Fox as the show stealer, and he indeed stopped the first scene of the play cold on Saturday night when the audience erupted in applause over a line Mamet wrote 20 years ago that suddenly has new relevance.

Excuse me, I said. Sorry to interrupt. But what language are you speaking?

Hebrew, said one.

Her friend, chimed in. We're huge Entourage fans. We love Piven...Jeremy is our Madonna. They weren't disappointed by their idol. He delivered Mamet's harsh dialogue with perfect timing. As does Elizabeth Moss (Karen), who has lately captured the imagination of a kind of literate baby boomer with her smart portrayal of Peggy Olsen on the AMC drama, Mad Men. But the real applause of the night went to Raul Esparza, who with his stunning performances as lonely Bobby in the Sondheim musical Company and the pimp Lenny in Pinter's The Homecoming is poised to complete a Broadway hat trick.

As for what the play is all about besides the age-old Mamet conflict between commerce and art? I’ll let Mamet speak for himself. Back in 1987, I interviewed him ostensibly for his film, House of Games, which was to premiere at the New York Film Festival that fall. But we veered off to talk about a little play that Lincoln Center had agreed to produce the next spring. I asked him if it were a comedy? “I hope so,” he said, chuckling and lighting a cigar. “It takes place in the office of a guy who just got appointed head of production at a major studio. It takes place between him and his underling who he’s known and has been eating his dust for the last twenty years and his temporary secretary. He wants to fuck his temporary secretary. He figures the best way he can fuck her is to impress her and kind of co-opt her so he gives her a book which is about the end of the world. He tells her he needs a report on this by the end of the night. ‘Would you mind giving me a reader’s report,’ he says. Come over to my house around 11 o’clock. So she comes over to his house and she convinces him to make this film about the end of the world, to actually green light it. And then the next day is about his friend trying to talk him out of green lighting the book about the end of world.” Despite the hype around Piven, Mamet wrote Esparza's character, Charlie Fox as the show stealer and he indeed stopped the first scene of the play cold on Saturday night when the audience erupted in applause over a line Mamet wrote 20 years ago that suddenly has new relevance. "Everybody says, 'Hey, I'm a maverick,'" Fox says. "There's no such thing as a maverick. But what do they do? Sit around like, hey, Pancho-the-dead-whale..." Someone should text message that line to Obama for the town hall meeting tomorrow night have him throw a little Mamet McCain's way and see how he does.