The talented – and troubled – star is making a West End splash with her role in David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow. But will it make headlines for the right reasons?
The first reviews of Lindsay Lohan’s West End debut in Speed-the-Plow were not kind – Vulture reported audience reactions of the actress struggling through the performance, jittery with nerves and constantly forgetting her lines. On the first night of previews, the comeback kid clearly hadn’t quite found her feet – but at yesterday’s press night, she’d clearly grown from her first week of treading the boards, and learned from her mistakes. Aside from one stumble with her lines, Lohan assumed the role of Hollywood secretary Karen with confidence and charisma – and while she may not quite be up for an Olivier award just yet, it was a decisive and credible step back into the acting world. Here are our ten bitesize takeaways from the performance.
SHE WAS GREAT, ACTUALLY
We know Lohan can act: she's given stellar turns in The Canyons, Mean Girls, A Prairie Home Companion, and, obviously, her OWN reality show. In David Mamet’s 1988 Hollywood satire she plays a naive, nervy yet passionate secretary with sharp panache, shining in the role of Karen, an LA 20-something temping at the office of two cynical Hollywood production chiefs working on a seat-bait buddy movie.
BUT SHE FLUFFED ONCE
Karen's extended monologue in act two extols a wordy book about the dangers of radiation, and how it can be a metaphor for how people can change. It's a great run, and where she really flexes her acting chops in this short, 90 minute play. Tonight the speech was cut short as Lohan's paused, briefly froze, before being prompted by the stage manager in the wings, and resuming unruffled.
A FEMINIST ROLE?
Charmingly enough, Karen is routinely termed "that broad" by the male characters, and when Bobby assigns Karen to read the dull book on radiation, it’s only as a condescending tool of seduction. Naively arriving at his house to deliver her findings, Karen flips the situation: she explains how the dreary tome could be adapted into an inspiring and meaningful fillm. She undercuts his boys-club-formed, dollar-driven belief-system, and you're rooting for her throughout.
In Speed-the-Plow as in life, Hollywood is riddled with cynical careerists who are only drawn to safe, bums-on-seats movie pitches. In a world of The Hangover 3 and – watch out 2016 – The Mummy remake, it felt more prescient than ever. But the moral message was worn lightly – one zinger about "remakes of films that haven't been made yet" drew ripples of laughter throughout the Playhouse Theatre.
IT'S THE PERFECT FIRST STAGE ROLE
As Karen, Lohan is probably on stage for around 30 minutes – about a third of the play's length – and her first line is an enquiry as to how one of the dudes likes his coffee. Aside from that splendid second-act monologue – which rocks one male character's world – her lines barely exceed a sentence. You can see the appeal for a theatre first-timer like Madonna, who chose Speed-the-Plow as her Broadway debut in 1988.
ART IMITATES LIFE
In Lindsay – Lohan's hilarious reality show – she’s unsure of her direction and often childlike amidst aircraft hangers of possessions and ever-disintegrating relationships. You wonder whether Lohan saw something a little more personal in the uncertain Karen, and the forth wall lowers slightly when she delivers a line like "I know what it is to be lost." Actually, is that a quote from her Oprah's Next Chapter hour-long special?
Lohan is great at comedy – and not just in the OTT camp way of Liz & Dick. In fact, her first appearance involves her awkwardly umming as she tries to ask Charlie Fox (Nigel Lindsay) how he takes his coffee, as the sweaty and suited Fox bleats on about how much money he'll stand to make. By far the most likeable character in the play, her on-point comic timing made her a riot to watch.
JOINING THE DOTS
Office temp Karen is like a kid on the first day of school – unsure of herself and how to interact with her high-flying fellow characters. She's like a holy trinity of Melanie Griffith's bushy-tailed new-starter at the beginning of Working Girl, with an Erin Brokovich work ethic and the on-edge twitchiness of pretty much every Nicole Kidman role this side of 2000. And it works!
In act one, Lohan wears a polka dot long-sleeved dress with a tie-neck scarf before changing into a short bell-sleeved dress and aquamarine T-bars for her evening engagement, and then a slim-cut black trouser suit similar to Hedi Slimane's update on le smoking. And it could well be a Saint Laurent design – it's one of Lohan's favourite brands, and we wouldn't put it past her to come up with high-end alternatives to the play's wardrobe.
A TIMELY PRODUCTION
With Cronenberg's digital-age Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars in cinemas now and Lohan's The Canyons on UK general release just months ago, it feels like 2014 has fallen for the theme of fucked-up Hollywood. Here's to a dystopian future!