In a surprising move, actor Jeremy Piven has announced that he will star in the play "The Piven Monologues" at New York's Public Theater. Less than 72 hours before the announcement, Piven's lawyer served the Public Theater with a "cease and desist" letter, claiming that the play was "defamatory" to his client.
The play is a satiric view of the actor's sudden departure from Broadway's "Speed-the-Plow" in December 2008, reputedly due to a case of mercury poisoning. According to press notes, "The Piven Monologues" weighs in on the "shitstorm" that followed.
"The Piven Monologues" performed on Sept. 14 at Joe's Pub, the Public Theater's intimate nightspot. The next morning, lawyer Marty Singer lost no time in slapping the acclaimed theater with a lawsuit. The Public Theater quickly countersued on behalf of the show's producer, Ari Emanuel, head of LA's Endeavor Talent Agency, which represents some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. Piven portrays a character based on Mr. Emanuel -- the foul-mouthed Hollywood über-agent Ari Gold -- in his hit HBO show "Entourage".
To avoid a protracted courtroom battle that threatened to delay the remaining performance on Oct. 2, the parties immediately entered arbitration. Among those summoned to the proceedings were David Mamet, the author of "Speed the Plow," who had famously remarked that Piven abruptly exited his play because "…he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."
Observers from outside the closed-door session reported "more profanity than 'Sexual Perversity in Chicago' and 'Glengarry Glen Ross' combined" -- two of Mr. Mamet's most caustic plays -- as well as what sounded like violent scraping of chairs and pounding of fists on the table. Especially heated was an exchange wherein Mr. Piven repeatedly called Emanuel 'Lloyd' despite his protests and Emanuel countered with taunts of "mercury muncher" and "kaki licker." Shouts of "Defamatory? I'll give you defamatory, ARI GOLD!" were also heard, apparently directed at Piven by Mr. Emanuel.
During a break, an unidentified source from inside the arbitration described the fracas. "You should hear all the insults up in here. That Piven was mean, due. He got up in their grills. He wuz cussin them like that chick in that play done her boyfren cuz he said she was only reglar lookin. You know that play?" A reporter from TheaterMania.com identified the play as "Reasons to be Pretty" by Neil LaBute, and was immediately accosted by David Mamet, who was drinking from a nearby water fountain. Mamet lunged at the reporter and spat out a string of vicious four-letter words before he was restrained and escorted back into the arbitration room. Mamet's assistant, who slipped into the room too quickly to give her name, explained "He doesn't like hearing LaBute's name. He thinks he's a big fat copycat."
The session appeared to calm down after the break, and in short order, the parties exited, shaking hands and slapping each other's backs. Ari Emanuel, in a brief statement to reporters, grudgingly credited Piven with the solution, turning to him and adding "Go ahead and gloat, but you better not fuck this one up, Jeremy" to which a jubilant Piven replied, "Hell, it's only one performance. What actor wouldn't want to play himself? Easiest job in the world, huh? I'm a shoe-in for a Tony! Now, let's hug it out, bitch!". But they didn't.
The Oct. 2 presentation of The Piven Monologues is scheduled to go on as planned, according to a Public Theater spokesperson, but with Mr. Piven in the lead.