Glengarry Glen Ross

By - Feb 7th, 2008 02:52 pm
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A scene from the Milwaukee Rep’s staging of Glengarry Glen Ross

By Tracy Doyle

Foul language. Crude behavior. Men being men. In the dark recesses of the underground parking garage, behind the open back doors of a parked van, a group of men bonded, argued, smoked the magic weed and emitted nearly tangible clouds of testosterone. At the same time, four floors above them, on the stage of the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, an entirely different group of men were ruthlessly trying to claw their way to the top of a fictitious Chicago real estate office. Both clans demonstrated the most primal activities of mankind, yet the group above ground, with their suits and ties and briefcases, may have displayed the more animalistic behaviors.

In the Milwaukee Rep’s staging of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, four salesmen resort to desperate measures to succeed in the harried world of real estate. Deception and manipulation are the tools of the trade, and over the course of the play we watch these men devolve in front of our eyes, following their most primal instincts to come out on top.

Mamet may be best known for his unique stylization of dialogue; every “er,” “um” and “I …” is written out, and overlapping dialogue reigns supreme. Director Kate Buckley ushered this production to success through mastery of this difficult technique, known affectionately as “Mametspeak.” However, an even greater challenge of producing Glengarry Glen Ross is to create something original and not simply a lower-quality version of the beloved 1992 film version starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin et al. It is tempting to parrot the film’s unforgettable performance, and unfortunately, too many of this evenings’ actors were reminiscent of the cinematic greats.

James DeVita as Richard Roma has a quiet, almost Kyle Maclachlan-like energy to him, very boy-next-door. Yet consistently, he would inject near perfect imitations of Pacino into his role. These sharp contrasts to the character he had already established made DeVita’s Roma difficult to follow and believe. A more successful invention of character was created by Peter Silbert, who was challenged to break the “Jack Lemmon” out of his character, Shelly Levene. Although Silbert shares physical and vocal qualities with Lemmon, he was successful in his own right. The monologue in which he describes his unbelievable sale of eight units of property to the Nyborgs was an impressive moment of dramatic clarity; it was impossible to look away from him. Jim Pickering as Dave Moss submitted another notable performance. The play is witty, fast-paced and a lot of fun to watch, although it leaves the audience with a pretty bleak picture of humanity, especially men.

Upon leaving the theatre and heading back to the parking garage, we found our pot-smoking, van-dwelling acquaintances from earlier relieving themselves and grunting wildly, assumably having missed the performance all together. Although they were acting like animals, I had to question who the real beasts were. I think Mamet would agree that the answer is the fuckin’ salesmen. VS

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