David Mamet's 1986 comedy provides a jaundiced glance at film-industry crassness. Though the clever narrative and delicious barbs don't always impart up-to-the-minute relevance, plenty of zingers hit squarely on target. Director Randall Arney and an adept cast parlay the scathingly funny material into an enjoyable romp that has the sting of truth.
The effort could be improved with more evenly balanced pacing, to maximize the clarity of Mamet's densely packed, rapid-fire dialogue. Newly appointed studio production chief Bobby Gould (Jon Tenney) agrees to green-light a formulaic star-driven action flick proposed by his longtime friend, unsuccessful wheeler-dealer Charlie Fox (Greg Germann). They anticipate a surefire hit and career breakthroughs. In a "business meeting" between Gould and his sexy temp secretary, Karen (Alicia Silverstone), at his apartment, she convinces him to replace the action film with an adaptation of an arty novel about radiation. Gould's intent in getting Karen to his abode was seduction, of course, but who seduces whom?
Finest among the trio of farceurs is Germann's wired wannabe. Playing a desperate opportunist whose pent-up drive is unleashed by frantically prancing around the office as he lays out his schemes, Germann is an uproarious force of nature, nailing Mamet's stock-in-trade depiction of macho aggressiveness. The accomplished Tenney makes a fine counterpoint as a jaded barracuda with a tinge of suppressed sentimentality and social conscience. Silverstone excels as the dimwitted (or is she?) bombshell, enjoying the juiciest character arc. First-class production values—aside from one marathon scene change—add to the pleasures of this solid revival.
Presented by and at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Tue.-Thu. 7:30 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 4 & 8:30 p.m., Sun. 2 & 7 p.m. Feb. 7-Mar. 25. (310) 208-5454. www.geffenplayhouse.com.