Equity undecided on actor's 'Plow' departure
NEW YORK — Jeremy Piven is off the hook, at least for now.At a union grievance hearing spurred by the thesp’s sudden exit from the Broadway revival of “Speed-the-Plow,” a panel of producers and Actors’ Equity members could not come to a consensus regarding the actor’s controversial departure. Held Thursday afternoon at the Equity offices, the hearing ended without any decision handed down. Producers can, if they choose, move on to arbitration with an independent arbiter. Jeffrey Richards, one of the lead producers of “Speed,” would not comment on whether the team plans to take that next step. Piven abruptly jumped ship from “Speed” in December, citing medical concerns about dangerously high levels of mercury in his body. The claim raised eyebrows among many legiters, who gossiped that the nightlife-loving thesp was unhappy with his Rialto gig. Piven had been contracted to appear in the show through its Feb. 22 closing date. When he left, producers scrambled to arrange replacement stints by Norbert Leo Butz and then William H. Macy. Investors worried that recoupment for the show, which received strong reviews and posted solid box office tallies, would be jeopardized by the loss of the show’s top-billed star, but the play nonetheless made it into the black before it shuttered. The grievance panel was made up of five members of thesp union Equity and five members of the Broadway League, the trade association of Rialto producers and presenters. “The League and Equity representatives were unable to reach a unanimous decision,” the two orgs said in a joint statement. A statement from Piven’s publicist said the union sided with Piven, and went on to reiterate the medical dangers of elevated mercury levels. “He is glad that his illness has helped raise public awareness of the serious health risks caused by mercury exposure,” the statement said.