BY JILL LAWLESS | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON — It wasn’t a car crash, but there weren’t fireworks, either.
Critics writing in Friday’s papers gave a lukewarm welcome to Lindsay Lohan’s professional stage debut, which followed months of hype and speculation about whether the wayward star was up to the job.
“Shock news: Lindsay Lohan can act a bit,” wrote Dominic Maxwell in The Times after the opening night of David Mamet’s Hollywood satire “Speed-the Plow.” The Guardian’s Michael Billington called Lohan’s performance “perfectly creditable.”
Lohan seemed tentative at times and had to be prompted once on Thursday’s opening night, but she has undeniable charisma, and some reviewers felt her uncertainty suited the character.
Billington said the performance “doesn’t mean Lohan is ready to play Hedda Gabler tomorrow … (but) she holds the stage with ease and doesn’t let the side down.”
Lohan plays the pivotal role of Karen, an office temp whose naivety throws the plans of two ambitious producers into chaos.
Karen is the counterpoint to insecure Hollywood players Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox, played by “West Wing” star Richard Schiff and British actor Nigel Lindsay. The production’s director — yet another Lindsay — is Lindsay Posner.
The male characters are classic Mamet creations, macho and manic. They’re skating frantically on thin ice, desperate not to plunge into the deep chasm below.
Karen, who turns out to be more ambitious than she first appears, was played by Madonna in the original 1988 Broadway production, and the role has become a showcase in which young actresses can make a strong impression.
Lohan, 28, has said she wants to role to be the start of a new chapter in her roller-coaster career.
Since her high point as the star of “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls,” Lohan has had six stints in rehab and several brief periods in jail, appeared in her own reality TV show and struggled to get strong film roles. Her most recent movie was the universally panned “The Canyons.”
Lohan’s troubled history inevitably flavored the onstage action — especially in a key scene where Karen tells Bobby, “I know what it is to be bad. I’ve been bad.”
Schiff said Lohan had faced intense pressure and showed “quantum growth” since the beginning of rehearsals.
“That’s how you judge it,” he told the AP. “You judge from where you begin, not where you end … and she did great.”
But some critics said Lohan should never have been allowed on the West End stage.
Mark Shenton of theater newspaper The Stage called her casting “a disgrace” and said the actor was “out of her league.”
In the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts called Lohan’s casting a marketing stunt and said her acting “is that of a not specially gifted schoolgirl.”
“This was a travesty of art,” he said.
“Speed-the-Plow” runs at London’s Playhouse Theatre until Nov. 29.