Eight performances a week in a three-hander is no snap, so we are sympathetic to Jeremy Piven, who is leaving Speed-The-Plow at the Barrymore due to what he says is a case of mercury poisoning. The Post is dubious, citing sources who say that “Piven hasn’t been too sick to party after performances” and “He lives his life very much like the way his character on ‘Entourage’ does.”
We are curious as to the source of Piven’s disease. Hatters used to get it from their work chemicals, leading to “Mad Hatter” symptoms such as nervousness, profuse sweating, rapid pulse, and hypersalivation. People do complain of mercury poisoning from dental fillings and flu shots, but doctors are skeptical. And you have to eat a lot of fish before you get it that way. But some folk remedies such as “Chinese herbal and patent medicines” contain mercury. Piven’s a Hollywood type, and they tend toward the faddish. Maybe someone’s been feeding him mercury-laced potions to retard his hair loss or something. If so we implore him to stop, for his sake and that of the American theater.
(Update: What’d we tell you? Piven’s doctor says he’s not sure whether the poisoning is “from his diet, which is high in fish, or Chinese herbs, which he’s been a fan of in the past.” Check his nightstand for cinnabar!)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 18, 2008