On Broadway this season, everywhere you look there’s a fuckin’ David Mamet play.
The veritable fest of work by the profanity-prone scribe — one of the rare contempo playwrights who can boast name recognition from the general public — kicks off Oct. 23 with the opening of “Speed-the-Plow,” to be followed Nov. 17 by another revival, “American Buffalo.” Also on the horizon: a developing production of Mamet’s “Oleanna,” said to be aiming for a spring berth.
The timing of the three offerings, each from a different production team, is accidental, according to producers. But coming on the heels of the 2005 Tony-winning revival of Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” and last season’s political comedy “November,” the coincidence starts to look like something of a Rialto resurgence for the playwright.
Producers and creatives attribute the Mamet influx to the enduring relevance of the scribe’s work. And although the scheduling raises concerns of diluting the always-small playgoing audience with a surfeit of shows by the same author, producers are hoping the increased attention on the writer will boost all three shows.
“Plow” and “Buffalo,” the two confirmed Mamet productions for the season, are superficially similar: Both have starry, three-person casts helmed by a director with long-standing ties to the playwright.
First up is the 1988 comedy about dueling Hollywood producers, “Plow.” Jeremy Piven, currently in his fifth season playing a Tinseltown insider in HBO skein “Entourage,” co-stars with Rialto vet Raul Esparza (“Company,” “The Homecoming”), both playing producers. Elisabeth Moss, one of the stars of buzz-magnet, Emmy-winning TV show “Mad Men,” portrays the temp assistant who comes between them.
The $2.2 million production is directed by Neil Pepe, a.d. of Off Broadway’s Atlantic Theater, co-founded by Mamet and William H. Macy. The Atlantic presented an all-Mamet slate for its 1999-2000 season, during which Pepe directed “American Buffalo,” and in 2005 he helmed the Atlantic’s production of Mamet’s comedy “Romance.” (Pepe makes his Rialto debut with “Plow.”)
A week after the Oct. 23 opening of “Plow,” “American Buffalo,” Mamet’s breakthrough 1976 play about three hustlers planning a heist, begins previews in a staging capitalized at $2.6 million. John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment star in the show, directed by Robert Falls. Like Mamet, Falls hails from Chicago, where he is a.d. of the Goodman Theater — which hosted a Mamet fest in 2006.
And then there’s the potential for a new production of the 1992 Off Broadway battle-of-the-sexes hit “Oleanna,” said to be shooting for spring with Julia Stiles reprising a role she played in London in 2004. Producer Jeffrey Finn wouldn’t confirm details but did acknowledge he was working on it.
Producers credit the surprisingly current resonance of the playwright’s works as the main impetus for reviving them.
“ ‘Speed-the-Plow’ could have been written yesterday,” says Jeffrey Richards, who produces “Plow” with Jerry Frankel and Steve Traxler. (The team also backed “Glengarry” and “November.”)
Richards also believes “Plow” has been overlooked in Mamet’s canon, thanks in large part to the headline-grabbing casting of Madonna in its original production.
“I always felt it had been overshadowed as ‘The Madonna Play,’ ” he says.
Ben Sprecher, who produces “Buffalo” with Elliot Martin (producer of the play’s 1983 revival starring Al Pacino), feels his own production also has topical appeal in an economically uncertain climate.
“It’s a savage comic tragedy about capitalism,” Falls explains.
Sprecher aims to make “Buffalo” stand out with its multiracial cast.
“We think we’re the only play that has the elements of youth, color and edge on Broadway this season,” he says. “We have three markets — the Latino audience, the black audience and the youth market — and we also have the Mamet fans, who are usually traditional theatergoers.”
The timing of the three productions is entirely accidental, according to those involved.
“Great playwrights are great playwrights,” Pepe says. “We’ve gone up and down in terms of when we see lots of Albee, lots of Pinter, lots of Miller.”
Mamet’s characteristic rat-tat-tat dialogue and recurring themes — including manhood, loyalty and work — have had lasting effects on subsequent legit creatives. “He’s been a giant influence,” Falls says. “Now there’s a new generation of actors and directors who want to do his work.”
“He writes great parts for great actors,” Sprecher adds — a handy characteristic when plays usually need a bankable star or two to have a chance at recouping.
“It’ll offer an interesting contrast,” Richards says of Broadway’s crop of competing Mamet productions. “They complement each other.”
“The multitude of Mamet plays just heightens awareness,” Finn adds. “It can only bode well for all of us.”