In 1896, William Selig founded the first film studio in Hollywood, California, then a sleepy farming town, in order to escape Thomas Edison's Eastern cartel. But what he created was a commodity factory that far exceeded Edison's New Jersey black box and didn't always stay true to its artistic roots.
Speed-the-Plow, a play by David Mamet, breaks down that classic push-and-pull between art and commerce in Tinseltown. Two midlevel execs debate whether to take on an inane blockbuster or an adaptation of an apocalyptic novel, and when their secretary gets drawn into the argument, Hollywood's true identity as a degenerate slum begins to take shape.
In Mamet's own words, Speed-the-Plow is "about work and the end of the world." The play is enjoying its Southeast premiere at GableStage at the Biltmore Hotel, a building that radiates the noir glamour of 1930s Hollywood.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Aug. 15. Continues through Sept. 13, 2009