Friday, October 9, 2009

We all owe the Piv an apology

Back when the 2008 Broadway revival of Speed-the-Plow was struggling to make money for its producers in the wake of Jeremy Piven's sudden departure, I noted that the New York Times was doing everything it could to help. This is why the Times has such a glowing reputation in the theatre community for using its power responsibly, and for trying to be as fair and generally supportive of high artistic standards as possible. Oh, wait...

Today's report on the details of the arbitration between Piven and the producers of Speed-the-Plow producers does not depart from the pattern when it comes to that show. Headline: "An Inside Look at an Offstage Drama" (or, if you look at your title bar, "Inside Jeremy Piven's Offstage Drama With 'Speed-the-Plow'"). Yes, reading the background details is interesting for theatre gossip buffs, and I suppose those same buffs were all over it when the outcome of said arbitration was decided back in August. The Times did report that back in August in a perhaps-too-even-handed story by Dave Itzkoff... but at the time they didn't have the details of the confidential arbitration to report on, just the statements from both sides. Now they're telling us what the arbitrator actually said, and for the sake of the general public reading this first-page-of-the-arts-section story, you'd think writer Patrick Healy might mention the outcome of the arbitration somewhere near the top, instead of more or less as an afterthought at the end of paragraph four. For the record:
The arbitrator, George Nicolau, ruled in the actor’s favor in late August.

In other words, Piven won. Something to keep in mind when you're reading through the he-said, they-said details in the rest of the piece. One side was ultimately found to be more convincing than the other. Oh, and also: he had mono? That's a new detail, isn't it?

I was as skeptical as anyone back when this happened; I did my share of joking about "mercury poisoning" and such. (I should have suspected, when David Mamet made his wiseass comment about Piven preparing for a role as a thermometer, that Piv was actually sick -- from what I've seen of his essays, when Mamet's being funny, he's not being honest.) It was certainly tempting to believe Piven was a lightweight, especially when he was making statements invoking (I think?) Barack Obama in his defense. Healy did write an article that offered up Piven's side of the story in February -- and I can't say that inspired me to rally to his cause (Martin Luther King, Jr.? Really?). Also, for the record, I quite liked the production (which I reviewed here). But still, all the valentines from the NYT after Piven's departure left me wondering how, exactly, you manage to buy that kind of "bad press." And I guess I'm still wondering.

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