Spend one minute with this sweat-browed clan of real estate agents, racing at full gallop through this most wickedly entertaining of David Mamet’s dark comedies, and you’ll see right away that this ain’t their first rodeo. But if it’s yours, hold onto your armrests — Mamet’s crackling, stuttering, staccato playwriting bucks like a wild horse, and when you leap up onto a great production of his work you’re pressed to hold on as tightly as the actors.
Mitchell Hébert’s deliciously dark-hearted staging at Round House is one of those great productions. Hébert and his seven-actor cast hold fast and drive hard. Led by Alexander Strain as the toxic, silver-tongued Ricky Roma and Rick Foucheux as the shambling but uncompromising Shelly Levene, the ensemble far surpasses the requisite level of riderly skill. Some casts would sweat satisfied just by holding fast to the reins, but Strain and Foucheux, with grim gusto, become the beast.
In a bit of irony shared by a number of great American plays, Glengarry Glen Ross is an amply pedigreed piece of work (it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1984 and has been revived on Broadway twice, including last year) that puts its focus on the lives of the worryingly unaccomplished.
From the dim shadows of Act One’s Chinese restaurant to the harsh fluorescence of Act Two’s real estate office — Hébert makes the smart choice to power through without intermission — the agency’s ruthless band of brothers are a textbook study of the many creative ways that a specific, but widely recognizable, breed of 20th-century American male will lash out against feelings of dwindling credibility, financial ruin, and — by show’s end — legal culpability.
Over lunch at the restaurant, Levene pleads for leads, terrified of dropping off the map with his dismal sales record of late. Leads are on the mind of agent Dave Moss (Jeff Allin) as well, as he tries to talk his milquetoast colleague George Aaronow (Conrad Feininger) into burglarizing the office to steal a stack of them (Allin and Feininger careen through this fast, confused repartee with excellent humor). But Roma only has one lead in mind during his own power lunch: the man sitting across from him, callow James Lingk (Jesse Terrill), who could well fall for Roma’s elaborate, but captivating, pitch.
Who are the anonymous lunchers in neighboring booths, you may wonder, and why are they all so deaf to such loud-mouthing? No matter. Off we are whisked to the ransacked office, and it’s in this second act that Mamet funnels the endless bluster of these prideful guys into the thick of the plot, like wind through a windsock, right up to the slap-in-the-face ending that dispenses one man’s comeuppance with rewardingly blunt force.
Glengarry Glen Ross
Closes March 3, 2013
Round House Theatre – Bethesda
4545 East-West Highway
1 hour, 15 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $26- $63
Tuesdays thru Sundays
A well-designed, meticulously directed, and wonderfully cast production of this play doesn’t come around all that often, given Mamet’s rigorous demands. Some theatergoers, naturally, will find these characters’ ballooning egos, ugly tactics, and streaks of casual racism too off-putting to enjoy. Fair enough.
But as a lasting and hard-hitting look at the dirty art of the sale, Glengarry Glen Ross is a nasty little treasure. Hébert and his team have all their paperwork in order. The pen goes click. It’s all laid out. And we buy it.
Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet . Directed by Mitchell Hébert . Featuring With Jeff Allin, Conrad Feininger, Rick Foucheux, Stephen Patrick Martin, KenYatta Rogers, Alexander Strain, and Jesse Terrill. Creative team: scenic designer James Kronzer, costume designer Ivania Stack, lighting designer Daniel MacLean Wagner, composer/sound designer Matthew M. Nielson, props master Michelle Elwyn, and stage manager Jennifer Schwartz. Produced by Round House Theatre . Reviewed by Hunter Styles.
Chris Klimek . City Paper
Jolene Munch Cardoza . Washington Examiner
Susan Berlin . Talkin’Broadway
Peter Marks . Washington Post
Sophie Gilbert . Washingtonian
Elliot Lanes . MDTheatreGuide
Doug Rule . MetroWeekly
Jennifer Perry . BroadwayWorld
Joan Fuchsman . Examiner.com
David Friscic . DCMetroTheaterArts