In the comfortable but not overly cushioned offices of The Crusty Curmudgeon, this item came across my virtual desk in silence. Gone are the old days when the news teletype wire in the corner sprang to life with its clackety-clack, heralding the arrival of important news. Nevertheless, the item captured my undivided attention: The producers of Speed the Plow by David Mamet have filed a grievance with Actor’s Equity Association (the actor’s union) against Jeremy Piven.
Piven dropped out of the show just two months after it opened to favorable reviews, claiming that mercury poisoning was the culprit, causing him to collapse in his home. The rumor-mongers said otherwise, claiming instead that Piven was out late partying and had grown bored with the play. I am not here to argue whether or not Piven was sick or bored, or whether he was on his death bed puking up rancid bits of raw seafood. If that is why you are here, go suck down some raw fish instead.
No sir, I am here to argue—well, actually, I am not here to argue at all. I am here to simply tell you how it is. The show must go on.
I don’t care if you’re puking your jellied guts out…the show must go on. I have done performances where everyone had food poisoning, and we were all running off stage and throwing up every chance we got. I remember one time most explicitly when I had been decapitated. I still did my performance of Hamlet that evening…headless!—my head filled in as Yorick, the skull—and THEN, and only THEN I went to emergency and had my head reattached. Because the show must go on.
If Piven is bored with Speed the Plow, he should pack his theatrical bags and skedaddle back to Hollywood, because I have never known an actor to become bored with Mamet that fast. Mamet dialogue is full of intricate nuance. It is like playing on a Steinway Grand when you are used to Casio. It provides a challenge to an actor akin to…well…performing Hamlet without your head attached (I got great reviews that night.)
And one more thing. The role Piven vacated has been occupied by William H. Macy. Macy is one of the finest actors working today. He is an actor’s actor. This is such a monumental improvement that it seems suspicious.
I’m thinking the producers poisoned Piven on purpose…to get rid of him. That’s what I would do.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON.