01/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jeremy Piven's Play Replacement Using Prompter, Ex-Castmate Still Critical

Monday's New York Times has a story about the whirlwind replacement of Norbert Leo Butz for a mercury-poisoned Jeremy Piven in Broadway's "Speed the Plow." Butz is filling the role dialogue-heavy role until mid-January, when William H. Macy comes in.

Butz had only one week of rehearsal before starting onstage last week, and it's been a tricky road of memorization. He even listens to his lines on iPod when getting massages.

At the Wednesday evening performance (which was preceded by a short speech from a stage manager who elliptically spoke of the "extraordinary circumstances" that brought Mr. Butz to the show), he was not yet off book; a prompter had to remind him of his lines on a couple of occasions, and he read from a script during the play's second and third scenes.

Meanwhile, Monday's article gave a chance for another dig at Piven from "Speed the Plow" costar Raul Espazra, wtih whom Butz shares a manager.

Mr. Esparza explained that Mr. Butz had already brought to the show "a real sense of trio."

"Jeremy didn't need to do anything, and the audience would automatically be on his side because he is so well known," Mr. Esparza said. What Mr. Butz contributes is "a theater actor's ability to tell a story well, to play in the ensemble," he added. "He's good at being part of the three of us."

The weekend after Piven dropped out Esparza and third costar Elizabeth Moss mocked Piven, with Moss fake crying and Esparza saying in part, "Today was the first time I really enjoyed playing this show."

Ticket sales meanwhile, have dropped significantly since Piven's departure.

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