‘Speed’ Calls In Coin

The producers of first Broadway Alliance play have secured the 15% overcall permitted under the Alliance’s financing guidelines, money that could be spent to help offset mixed reviews.

Robert Whitehead, co-producer of “The Speed Of Darkness,” says the additional money would be used – if and when it’s actually spent – primarily for “promotional reasons.”

“I haven’t used it yet but I have called it in,” Whitehead says, adding, “I thought it wiser to call it in rather than wait until the last minute.”

Under Alliance rules, a play’s capitalization cannot exceed $400,000, although producers are given the 15% overcall option for emergencies or unexpected expenses. Whitehead says “Speed” was capitalized at $370,000 (not including a $30,000 Equity bond put up by the Theater Development Fund). Fifteen percent of the $370,000 is $55,500.

As the first play produced under the Alliance, “Speed” faces considerable scrutiny, both financial and artistic. Whitehead has been particularly concerned that the public not perceive “Speed” as artistically less than a full-scale Broadway production.

Despite calling in the additional 15%, Whitehead says the Alliance restrictions are workable, particularly if the play is well-received by critics. Whitehead’s last Broadway endeavor, “A Few Good Men,” closed Jan. 26 after a 15-month run that withstood more than a few bad notices.

Whitehead says an additional $150,000 to $200,000 investment bought “Men” the time to find its audience despite negative reviews. Such a major cash infusion would not be an option for “Speed,” although Whitehead says if additional funding is needed to keep the drama running he could approach the Alliance for permission.

“Of course, they have the right to say ‘close the show,’ ” he says.

“Speed” may in fact be in for uncertain times. While some critics dubbed the play a challenging drama, others saw a manipulative melodrama. Written by Steve Tesich and directed by Robert Falls, “Speed” stars Len Cariou and Stephen Lang as Vietnam vets sharing a dark secret.

The Alliance plan, announced last June, is designed to encourage the production of drama on Broadway. A coalition of unions, guilds, producers and theater owners agreed to financial cutbacks, and the productions must meet the capitalization limits. Tickets cannot exceed $24.

The Theater Development Fund also has agreed to excuse Alliance plays from the half-price restrictions at its TKTS booths. “Speed” tickets are being sold for $17.50 at the booths, rather than the actual half price of $12. Fund spokesman Stuart Little says the fund “reluctantly agreed” to the concession.

The fund was concerned that the concession could alter public perception of the TKTS prices. “We have a huge investment in the concept of half-price tickets,” Little says.

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