The reviews are in for Lindsay Lohan’s West End (and stage) debut, in which she plays dogged secretary Karen in David Mamet’s 1988 satire Speed-the-Plow – but the reaction from press night has not exactly been complimentary.
Many consider the role a ‘comeback’ attempt for the Mean Girls and Freaky Friday star, following a much-publicised few years spent in and out of court, rehab and (briefly) prison, as well as several unsuccessful acting roles.
So Lindsay may be disappointed with critics’ reactions, with several sources stating that the 27-year-old film actress forgot her lines during the second act, requiring a prompt.
The Guardian‘s Michael Billington takes issue with the play as a whole, awarding just two stars, but does acknowledge that Lohan puts in a “perfectly creditable performance”, adding, “she holds the stage with ease and doesn’t let the side down.”
A harsher review from The Mail‘s Quentin Letts who terms Lohan “a not specially gifted schoolgirl.” He continues: “She tried her very best. But she should never have been thus exposed. Acting in the West End is no joke.”
Giving the play three stars, Dominic Cavendish was impressed by Lohan who “made her stage debut with a surprising – and smouldering – degree of style.” He writes in The Telegraph, “she delivers enough of the goods, playing the small but pivotal role of a temporary secretary who upsets the male balance of power in a top production office, to hold her head up high.”
But Lindsay shouldn’t worry – other famous faces have occasionally struggled in the very same part, and they didn’t have the pressure of a supposed career ‘redemption’ to worry about.
But how does her performance (so far) compare?
Madonna played Karen back in 1988 when she was arguably the biggest star on the planet. So she was a huge box office draw for the original run of the play – but critics were divided. Some were impressed, including Frank Rich who lauded her “intelligent, scrupulously disciplined comic acting.”
But many found her performance more wooden than enigmatic, later described as “shockingly unmemorable” by the New York Times. Howard Kissel of the New York Daily News also rather cruelly observed that “Being vacant on the stage requires more effort than it does in real life.”
Verdict: Lindsay, it could be worse – at least people are aware you’re on stage.
The Clueless star had slightly more success than Madonna in a 2007 production, but still didn’t convince the critics. “Silverstone brings a clear naivete and cutesy quality to Karen, [but] we are left wanting,” lamented one critic from CurtainUp.
They added: “Although the air-headed quality of her character sometimes works, there’s an intellect lacking from her delivery.”
Verdict: Lindsay might have forgotten her lines, but nobody accused her of sounding dim for saying them. Advantage Lohan.
When the Top of the Lake actress first joined the cast of Mad Men, Peggy Olsen was a naive, young secretary, which may have contributed to her success as Karen in a 2008 production. Critics loved her turn, which was largely held to outdo her predecessors in the role.
“When Madonna played Karen — as woodenly as she was to play most subsequent parts — she got a pass from the critics, who said that her role was too enigmatic to do much with,” said a reviewer for the New York Times.
“Ms. Moss proves the lie in that assessment, bringing a naked clarity to her unvarnished, tinny-voiced Karen that makes the play hang together in ways it didn’t before.”
Verdict: Sorry, Lindsay. You didn’t quite succeed in doing an “Elisabeth Moss” this time.
Speed-the-Plow will run at the Playhouse theatre London until 29 November