David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a top notch play. Saturday’s performance at the Warehouse was a quality one, but it did not exceed expectations. Call me jaded, but this production of Glengarry Glen Ross needed something more than what was there.
The original Broadway cast referred to this play as, “Death of a Fucking Salesman,” and that would give viewers a much more representative idea of what this play sounds like. While I personally have no problem with profanity whatsoever and wish it would be in the public ear as much as possible, I couldn’t help but feel like many of the curse words don’t carry the emotional weight that I wanted them to. They were kind of empty. You can only drop so many f-bombs and gd’s before they start to seem like cop-outs, and I believe it is this effect that led the audience to be rather underwhelmed by head sales manager Richard Roma calling one of the other salesman the “c word.” As a rule, the “c word” should always carry some weight, right? Otherwise, why use it?
Perhaps it’s not them, but us instead. Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross was first performed in 1983, at a time when Wall Street plots and high stakes business thrillers were nothing like the established—and arguably overplayed—genres that they have become. As the above alternative title points out, it was much more of a response to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman than anything else. The script holds up, of course, and these actors are more than competent from start to finish, but if all-out profanity and rampage is what you’re going for, I wanted more of that. More outbursts. More drunkenness. Less respectability.
Another thing about this play that is problematic is that of length. It is only a two act play to begin with, and it is far from action-packed. For most of this production, we have a lot of Man A talking to Man B, which is fine, but again, there isn’t much more than the occasional entrance of Man C or Man D. The audience seemed to perk up whenever the waitress brought drinks to the table, as we got a brief glimpse of someone not in at least their mid-forties wearing a suit.
Profane older men are a necessary evil of this play, and the ideas Mamet was going for almost thirty years ago remain relevant. How does an older salesman who may be falling behind the others make it seem like he’s the same old guy? Why don’t we meet the owners of the agency? What will men do to stay competitive and relevant? There is plenty of substance in a play like this, but it’s bad if you need to be reminded why it matters in the first place.
Roma is a dynamic character, always knowing what he wants out of any situation he’s in as evidenced in his humorously cynical outlook on things. “There’s an absolute morality. Ehhhh. People go to hell. Nah.” “Hell exists on earth.” You’re not exactly rooting for him, but one must take some solace in the fact that he will win in the end. You just know it.
Those looking for a faithful adaptation of Glengarry will not be disappointed with the cast and production values at the Warehouse. But you may remember liking this play more than actually liking it this time around, and if you’ve never seen it before, you might find yourself wondering why there’s so much f-ing cursing.
David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross has 4 more performances at the Warehouse, 645 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC.
Ross rates this 3 out of 5
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