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Ben Brantley Just Thrilled About Jeremy Piven’s Mercury Poisoning

In 1955.

With Jeremy Piven hopelessly mercury-poisoned, sidelined from Broadway's Speed-the-Plow and confined to bed rest (save only for periodic appearances at awards shows and nightclubs), we've tried to keep positive, praying that he might one day recover and return to the New York stage. Not the Times' Ben Brantley, though!

"Is it too late to send a thank you note to Jeremy Piven?" he begins. Just a day after his hatchet job on poor Mary-Louise Parker's Hedda Gabler ("one of the worst revivals I have ever, ever seen"), the venerable theater critic reevaluates his earlier position on Speed-the-Plow, in the wake of Piven's departure and replacement by William H. Macy and Norbert Leo Butz. Brantley concludes that the actor's ingestion of toxic sushi was fortuitous, not because his stand-ins are better in the role of film producer Bobby Gould, necessarily, but because it gave Broadway audiences the opportunity to enjoy two more equally terrific performances:

"What truly impresses me is how each was able to provide a fully detailed, self-contained portrait that made me forget — at least for the length of the performances — all Bobbys past."


He also insensitively credits Piven's life-threatening ordeal with the increased confidence of Elizabeth Moss and Raúl Esparza in their roles:

"They were excellent when I first saw them, but they have acquired new confidence and insights as they adjust their characters' attitudes in relation to the latest Bobby in their lives."


We can only hope that Brantley never knows the pain of losing a loved one to a tuna roll.

With Piven Gone, ‘Plow’ Speeds Apace [NYT]

Photo: Photo-illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images