Glengarry Glen Ross

The play isn’t so much a tragedy as a searing examination of depleted salesmen trapped in webs of deceit and desperation,

David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Glengarry Glen Ross (1983) remains his most famous play, due in no small part to the influence of the star–studded 1992 film version of the work. For die–hard fans of the movie, it’s always a treat when a new production is staged. Sadly, for Hamilton audiences, NorteSur Productions’ current version has been reduced to a limited run of four shows at the Pearl Company Theatre, which is co–producing. The play isn’t so much a tragedy as a searing examination of depleted salesmen trapped in webs of deceit and desperation, and the culture that nurtures them. Mamet presents them to us with neither pity nor condemnation. In his notes, Director David Nash posits his intention to inspire the audience to leave the theatre debating the nuances of Mamet’s characters and who the heroes and villains may actually be. In this he is successful. And he’s aided by a cast that includes some very solid performers. Nash is clearly cognizant of the power of the film as he incorporates a character expressly created for the movie into his version. Film buffs can rejoice that the character of Blake, and his memorable monologue have been inserted ‘in toto’ into this production. Chris Reid imbues the character of Blake with a palpable world–weariness and somewhat underplays his brief role, which isn’t necessarily a bad choice. He has the stagecraft to make the audience listen carefully to his growled sotto voce monologue, but perhaps a little more variety in tone and volume wouldn’t have gone amiss. Mark Ellis as Levene is the clear standout in this cast. Whether emanating frustration from every pore, beaming with temporary triumph or painting vivid word pictures and making the audience see through his eyes, his technique is up to the challenge of Mamet’s raw idiosyncratic dialogue. In fact, he can make it sing, and that’s no small feat. He is so natural and so engrossing that you don’t notice the work going into his performance

. It would have been a wonderful boon to the production if he could have given some cast members a quick course in cutting oneself off naturally. Mischa Avarena’s portrait of the immoral Ricky Roma grows as the play progresses and one realizes at a certain point that he’s even more gifted at reacting in group scenes than he is at delivering a long monologue, and he’s no slouch in either department. He makes of the character a delightfully affable douche. And he manages it with such a light touch, that even when scene partners aren’t giving him much to play against, he still shines. It’s a memorable performance that lingers in the mind. As Aaronow, Rod McTaggart crafts a deft portrayal of the aging salesman with low self–esteem. In fact, he goes even further and envisions him as quite out of his depth, almost lost in a miasma of confusion and fear. The added layer of interpretation works well. I found myself intrigued by Director Nash’s decision to cast a woman in the role of Williamson, the office manager. As the person holding all the real estate leads, the gender switch changes the dynamic in the office and puts a different slant on the element of disrespect in which the character is held by the salesmen. Kayla Gambrill brings a different kind of energy to the role and her take may have won me over, but for her tendency to grimace. The mugging, while producing cheap laughs, detracted from the force of her intent and had me wondering what the character’s motivation could possibly be. As the office loudmouth, Moss, Joel Pettigrew does a great deal of unfocused flailing about. Although the character is a hothead, resentful enough to try to bring about the company’s downfall, he needs some finesse to emerge as more than a cartoon. Similarly, I found the director’s vision for the character of Lingk somewhat baffling. While meant to be a timid and easily manipulated dupe for Roma, actor John Patrick has been directed to play him almost as being somewhere on the spectrum. It was too much, and I felt that Patrick could have provided a more effective performance without the highly exaggerated fragility. Still, for the most part this production has much to recommend it and it’s a loss to audiences that its run was unexpectedly shortened. V

by David Mamet
NorteSur Productions and the Pearl Company

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