By Michael Roddy
LONDON (Reuters) - Lindsay Lohan kept an opening night audience hanging on her every word, in part to see if she'd forget any, as she made her stage debut on Thursday night in a West End revival of "Speed-the-Plow", David Mamet's scathing satire of Hollywood.
By the closing curtain, Lohan had proved she could hold her own with two top-notch male actors. Richard Schiff, best known as Toby Ziegler from "The West Wing", played producer Bobby Gould. His buddy Charlie Fox was played by Nigel Lindsay, who had the title role in the West End staging of "Shrek the Musical".
The trio, under director Lindsay Posner at the Playhouse Theatre, managed to give a new edge to the cutting humor in Mamet's 1988 play.
The story centers on two self-professed movie business "whores," who are agreed on a big deal they know is going to make them rich. But then temporary secretary Karen, played by Lohan, turns their lives upside down.
A few of Lohan's lines brought knowing laughs from the audience, including: "I know what it is to be bad, I've been bad."
Lohan, 28, was once one of Hollywood's most sought-after young actresses, with starring roles in movies such as 1998's "The Parent Trap" and 2004's "Mean Girls." Of late, she has become better known for going in and out of rehab and court after arrests for offenses such as reckless driving and drug possession.
During previews of "Speed-the-Plow", critics who normally wait for opening night to review a performance reported Lohan flubbed some of her lines and needed prompting from offstage.
For the opening, she appeared better rehearsed. After an offstage voice prompted her with a line near the start of the second act of the 85-minute show, she overcame a breathless delivery and by the end seemed at ease.
At the curtain call, she smiled broadly and popped a bottle of fake champagne, showering the audience in the front row seats with glittering colored paper.
"I thought Lindsay portrayed her character well, though she forgot a couple of lines... but she's a star, she's still a star," said Chloe Emirali, 25, a New Zealander who lives in Milton Keynes, England and is a self professed Lohan fan.
Other stage works by Mamet, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright and screenwriter, include "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "American Buffalo." He was nominated for Oscars for his screenplays for "Wag the Dog" and "The Verdict".
Lohan's part was played by Madonna in the original 1988 production, and by fellow Hollywood actress Alicia Silverstone in a 2007 revival in Los Angeles.
But despite the leading ladies who've inhabited the role, the evening belongs to Charlie Fox and Bob Gould, two Hollywood types whose business dealings, and suggested mutual backstabbings, go way back.
The two are working together on a movie pitch starring an actor they hope to filch from a rival studio. The film could make them a pile of money, or as one of them puts it, "the operative concept is lots and lots" of loot.
Lohan has the fewest lines, but she is the enigmatic femme fatale at the center of the action who takes an interest in an apocalyptic book called "The Bridge" which Gould has in the office for the purpose of a courtesy read but which he dismisses as the work of "an Eastern sissy writer".
He allows her to read the book and asks her to report back to him that night at his apartment, where he hopes to seduce her. She turns the tables on him in a plot twist that winds up with him supporting making "The Bridge" into a movie, much to the dismay of sidekick Fox who sees his riches slipping away.
One of the great moments in the third act is Fox's double take when he realizes that Gould has succumbed to the secretary's manipulations, to make the movie about "The Bridge" with her as a partner. His next best moment is when he denounces her as a witch.
It would be unfair to give away more of the plot, but in some ways the play is dated, particularly its dissing of the "sissy" writer's apocalyptic novel. Since the play was written, dystopian/apocalyptic films like "the Hunger Games" have become all the rage.
What remains is Mamet's sharp, cutting dialogue and his fiendishly dark take on Hollywood. If anything, that has become the prevailing view of how things go there, in no small part due to Mamet's screenplay for "Wag the Dog", Robert Altman's "The Player" and the new David Cronenberg look at the seamy side of Hollywood in "Maps to the Stars".
(Michael Roddy is the arts and entertainment editor for Reuters in Europe. The views expressed are his own.)
(Editing by David Gregorio)