LONDON — Lindsay Lohan only has one major speech in the David Mamet play that marks her West End debut. Unfortunately, she couldn’t remember how it went.
On the first night of previews, a work-in-progress feel is to be expected. But halfway through the second act of Speed-the-Plow, the audience was openly laughing at Lohan’s struggle to grasp Mamet’s sharp, trademark dialogue.
After her first audible prompt, which came shortly after the interval, the audience sat patiently. The second led to titters in the stalls. Unfortunately for Lohan, the next line delivered by Richard Schiff (Toby from The West Wing) was: “You have done a fantastic job!”
The laughter grew louder.
Although she was sitting staring at a book, which may or may not have contained clues, a third prompt from the wings had Lohan smirking, and she raised her hand to her heart apologetically. By now, even her serious lines were being greeted with laughter. “I know what it is to be bad, I’ve been bad,” her character Karen emotes. More laughter.
“Oh my god, it’s so embarrassing,” said a woman in the crowd during an unusually long set change. In truth, Lohan remained charming throughout.
The chaotic second half had not started promisingly when the occupants of the box closest to the stage tipped a glass of champagne over someone in the front row. It ended with a minor wardrobe malfunction as Lohan’s blouse puffed out—untucked—below what was supposed to be a smart new outfit.
This theatrical debut from Lohan in London, where she claims to have moved for good, marks a modest return to the spotlight after years of court appearances and tales of unrest on set. She has been a regular fixture in the British gossip pages despite a hectic schedule of rehearsals.
Contrary to some of the Twitter reviews, this was no car crash. If Lohan can nail her lines in the coming days, this somewhat pedestrian interpretation of the Mamet classic certainly could find its stride. The action focuses on the decision-making process of a movie studio hotshot. How do you decide which films to make? How are Hollywood careers forged and broken?
All of this, of course, has personal echoes for Lohan, a child star who burned out in the public eye. Perhaps her naive but ambitious character, desperate to make it in Los Angeles, has too many resonant lines for the audience to fully forget that this is Lindsay Lohan on stage.
When she says, breathily, “I’m serious, I’d do anything,” it’s going to be difficult for any audience to keep a straight face.
For all of Lohan’s discomfort, Schiff revels in Mamet’s edgy, witty lines. His movie producer character, Bobby Gould, is restrained but still crackling with energy. The West Wing alum is by far the best thing in the play. Though a consummate professional and far more gifted actor, Schiff doesn't share the multimillion-dollar Hollywood prospects of Lohan, whether she manages to rebuild her topsy-turvy career or not.
There was one line Schiff seemed to spit out with extra relish: “Life in the movie business is like the beginning of a new love affair: it’s full of surprises, and you’re constantly getting fucked.”