It follows the journey of Hollywood mid-level producer Bobby Gould over the course of twenty-four hours, as he ponders whether to recommend to his boss another bad blockbuster-to-be or put himself on the line for a film adaptation of a spiritually-centered novel about the apocalypse. Waging the battle for his decision are his long-time friend/fellow producer Charlie Fox and cute office temp Karen, who is more than she seems.
The original 1988 Broadway production was nominated for Best Play and Best Direction of a Play at the Tony Awards, but received the most media attention for being the Broadway debut of Madonna.
In 2008 a revival opened on Broadway starring Jeremy Piven as Bobby Gould, Raul Esparza as Charlie Fox and Elisabeth Moss as Karen. When Piven left the production "for medical reasons" midway through, he was succeeded in the role first by Nobert Leo Butz, and then by William H. Macy, who had previously played the role in the play's one-act sequel Bobby Gould In Hell. The same year, it was revived in London by the Old Vic Theatre, with Jeff Goldblum as Bobby, Kevin Spacey as Charlie, and Laura Michelle Kelly as Karen.
This play includes examples of:
- Epigraph - "Which is the most reasonable, and does his duty best: he who stands aloof from the struggle of life, calmly contemplating it, or he who descends to the ground, and takes his part in the contest?"
- The Ghost - Mr. Ross
- Literary Allusion Title - Well, sorta. There is an 18th century English play by Thomas Morton called Speed-the-Plough, but Mamet states that he is unfamiliar with that piece. The title is attributed as a reference to the phrase "Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow".
- Mamet Speak
- Minimalist Cast
- Our Acts Are Different - The play is performed in three long scenes with no intermission.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism - Don't let it fool you; the play might fool you into thinking it's going one way, but in the end, it falls firmly on the cynical side.