Glengarry Glen Ross
By David Mamet
Directed by Jeremy Skidmore
Produced by Keegan Theatre
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
Keegan Theatre’s Glengarry Glen Ross is an example of how the stars can occasionally align to produce a truly memorable experience. This top-notch production of David Mamet’s profane yet literate play about desperate real estate salesmen would be a treat under any circumstance. When you add in the special resonance that results from the current economic climate, the result ranks among the finest theatrical events of the year.
The story opens in a Chinese restaurant where Levene (an unforgettable Kevin Adams) is desperately cajoling the disagreeable office manager John Williamson (Colin Smith) for premium leads to the new Glengarry development. Once successful, the older Levene has fallen on hard times and hasn’t closed any big deals recently. Levene’s sense of desperation is palpable as he faces the possible loss of his job, which is not only his economic livelihood, but also the source of his sense of identity and his very manhood.
The other office salesmen also frequent the restaurant. Dave Moss (Peter Finnegan) is a bitter big-mouthed salesman with big dreams and a willingness to double-cross his employer to achieve them. George Aaronow (Stan Shulman) is an aging salesman who lacks confidence in his abilities. The one salesman on a successful roll is Ricky Roma (Mark A. Rhea), a charismatic and ruthless guy with a knack for landing weak-willed clients such as James Lingk (Michael Innocenti).
This production has a terrific ensemble cast. All of them, including a police detective named Baylen (Bill Aitken), nail perfectly the rhythms of Mamet’s acclaimed dialogue. It achieves the status of street poetry, where conversations make sense to the ear even when lacking in grammar or sentence structure. Of course, the dialogue is liberally sprinkled with a variety of coarse language spoken by macho men who use talk as their means of conquest and survival.
Like most great plays, Glengarry Glen Ross can be enjoyed on multiple levels. On its surface it is a cynical dark comedy that glides smoothly and provokes abundant laughter. There are elements of satire and social criticism about an unethical American business culture. Finally, although the play is an ensemble piece, Levene’s deterioration gives it tragic weigh.
Mamet’s work always presents performers with a high degree of difficulty. The script is almost completely devoid of stage directions and instructions. The fact that director Jeremy Skidmore gets such uniformly outstanding performances from the cast shows that he is a deeply talented professional working at the top of his game.
In 2007, Keegan took Glengarry Glen Ross to Ireland. It was an apt choice to demonstrate how a uniquely American play can move and thrill audiences from other countries. It’s Mamet at his best, and theatre doesn’t get much better than that. Even if you’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross before, you should still catch the Keegan production before its far too brief run ends.
Running Time: 1:40 (one intermission).
When: Through December 20th. Thursdays-Saturday at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM.
Where: Church Street Theater, 1742 Church Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (near Dupont Circle).
Tickets: $25-$30. Call 703-892-0202 (ext. 2) or email [email protected].