There’s nothing quite like a high-minded literary smackdown, and that’s exactly what Exeunt Magazine editor Alice Saville offers in her review of David Mamet’s ripped-from-the-Harvey- Weinstein-headlines play Bitter Wheat.
The review unfolds across a series of “drafts” filed to a patient yet persistent editor who urges Saville to elaborate on her original review, which simply reads, “It was boring. I didn’t like it.” From there, Saville helpfully adds, “It was boring. I didn’t like it. My editor has asked me to expand on this response but I don’t see why I have to do edits when David Mamet clearly hasn’t.”
A third draft clarifies a few things:
It was boring. I didn’t like it. It was just a mish-mash of vaguely comedic scenes about a thinly veiled version of Weinstein exploiting a young female actor, plus some ‘ironic’ racism and a bit where a terrorist showed up with a gun. The Weinstein guy is called ‘Barney Fein’, which insults my fingers in the typing. The marble floor is quite nice. The end.
Eventually, Saville does expand in a more traditional form about her issues with the play. The Harvey Weinstein stand-in, played by John Malkovich, “offers a comic summation of his operating methods, not a look at why he’s compelled to act the way he does.”
The woman he’s tormenting, played by Ioanna Kimbook, Saville writes, gives “no sense of the degradation that an actor must feel when she spends her whole life dreaming and training for her career, only to see her future rest on her willingness to give a blowjob.”
Saville has praise for the production’s actors, who she praises for doing the best they can with the material on hand, but she ultimately has nothing but contempt for Mamet’s “underwritten... intellectually lazy” script and production.
It had this unbearable stench of waste emanating from its artfully painted marble floors, and wafting through its unpardonably long, elaborate scene changes. It was short, and it dragged. The whole thing feels like the mega high-budget, theatrical equivalent of clickbait: the producers presumably know that negative reviews can be styled out as ‘post #MeToo controversy’, and even then it’ll still shift more tickets than ten feminist plays.
It’s almost as if the right person to reflect upon the dangers of rich, powerful, connected Hollywood white guys was not a rich, powerful, connected Hollywood white guy.
You can read the entire, scathing review at Exeunt Magazine. You could also, one supposes, go see Bitter Wheat at London’s Garrick Theatre, although it seems like everyone else hates it just as much as Saville.
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