How Speed-the-Plow Got Its Name | Letters | Chicago Reader

How Speed-the-Plow Got Its Name 

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To the editors:

There's only one thing I want a reviewer to tell me about David Mamet's play Speed-the-Plow, and Anthony Adler, like every other reviewer, has dropped the ball [March 17].

I just want to know why a play about the Hollywood hustle is called Speed-the-Plow. And with hyphens, yet! If it turns out that the title is just a bizarre non sequitur (like calling a rock band "Digital Condom"), I'd still like to be informed of that fact.

In his hoped-for reply, perhaps Mr. Adler can also include a few words about the equally baffling Glengarry Glen Ross. (The title, not the play. I don't care about the play.)

Those of us whose interest in theater is marginal at best are certainly not going to attend a performance to seek these answers. We rely on reviewers to satisfy our marginal curiosities. If they fail in that, what purpose do they serve?

W. Ewingson


Anthony Adler replies:

Finally, a letter from somebody who understands the critic's mission! Here are your answers, W., along with my apologies for having let you down.

First the poop on Speed-the-Plow, as reported by Richard Christiansen in the Chicago Tribune for Sunday, February 19: "Finally, on a hunting trip in East Texas, Mamet got the title for his play. 'We were at the forge, watching a friend of mine pound out the steel for a hunting knife, and I remembered the saying that you see on a lot of old plates and mugs: "Industry produceth wealth. God speed the plow."

"'This, I knew, was a play about work and about the end of the world, so "Speed-the-Plow" was perfect, because, not only did it mean work, it also suggested having to plow under and start over again.'"

The hyphens are for decoration, I guess.

The title Glengarry Glen Ross refers to three real estate developments--Glengarry Highlands, Glengarry Farms, and Glen Ross Farms--that either have been or are being hustled by the salesmen in the play. Shelly "the Machine" Levene did a bang-up job selling Glen Ross Farms back in '65; now he's down on his luck, and smooth young Richard Roma is cleaning up on the Glengarry properties. As I see it, Glengarry Glen Ross is shorthand for: Glengarry, Glen Ross, Levene, or Roma--what's the difference? They're all part of the same sick shit.


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