It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up on 29 years since David Mamet’s Tony Award winning masterpiece Glengarry Glen Ross opened on Broadway. Watching the production at Round House Theatre, I could not help see the similarities between the two. I am not saying that Round House copied the Broadway production because it most definitely did not but both productions had three things.
…a must see.
The first one is great direction. In the original we had Gregory Mosher and at Round House we have Mitchell Hébert who adds his own touches to the proceedings, such as finding the laughs in the script. The second one is uniformly solid ensemble acting. The show rises and falls on its ensemble and Hébert has assembled a cast that matches the original. Lastly the roles of Richard Roma and Shelly Levene must be played by two powerhouse actors. In the original it was Joe Mantegna and Robert Prosky respectively. At Round House you have the oh so great acting stylings of Alexander Strain and Rick Foucheux.
Seeing the show again also made me realize how relevant it still is. The story of a real estate office in Chicago with everyone fighting for their jobs and the cutthroat do-anything-to-stay-afloat approach is indicative of the desperation that I’m sure lots of people feel in this economy. The fact that a deal was made in a Chinese restaurant between two men to rob the office they work for of its real estate leads is something that I’m sure people contemplate doing all the time if it will help them.
Acting wise I can say without question this is one great bunch of performers. As Shelley “the machine” Levine, a desperate broker who needs to make a sale fast or lose his job, Rick Foucheux turns in another masterful performance. As long as I’ve been in DC and watched Foucheux, I can’t help but marvel at his work. It’s attributable to an era of the actor that does not exist anymore.
Likewise for the fantastic Alexander Strain who plays the slimy Richard Roma, who’s gunning to win a car that the company is offering for the most sales. Strain’s performance is actually better than Mantegna’s because Strain does not shout the entire performance. There are levels that lead up to the pay off at the end.
We then have KenYatta Rogers as the company’s manager John Williamson. If he does not like you, you get the bad leads and make no money. While I did find Rogers a little hard to understand sometimes, I did think he captured the vindictiveness of his character.
As the two other salesman, Dave Moss and George Aaronow, Jeff Allin and Conrad Feininger both turn in fine performances as two men fighting to stay afloat against the others in the office.
I enjoyed greatly Jesse Terrill as James Lingk, a man who’s wife does not feel comfortable with the deal Roma has talked them into and sends her husband to get their money back. The “yes dear” approach to his character is quite charming.
As police detective Baylen, Stephen Patrick Martin delivers a solid performance and rounds out this fine cast.
Production elements match the performances. While this play usually has an intermission, Hébert has wisely elected not to break the tension. We start in a Chinese Restaurant and transition into the ransacked office flawlessly. James Kronzer’s set revolves right in front of you and when we went from one to the other the audience applauded. It is quite a reveal.
Somehow Composer/Sound Designer Matthew Nielson always manages to humble me. As a fellow designer I can only aspire to be this good. While Glengarry Glen Ross has maybe a total of five minutes of sound, the visceral savage rhythms of Nielson’s compositions perfectly compliment the cutthroat nature of the piece.
All in all this Glengarry Glen Ross is a must see. Hébert and company bring Mamet’s characters to life in grand fashion. If you only know the movie version of this play, I urge you to see it live at Round House Theatre. It’s an offer you won’t be having second thoughts about.
Running Time 73 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Adult theme and language—in other words, it’s Mamet.
Glengarry Glen Ross plays through March 3, 2013 at Round House Theatre – 4545 East-West Highway in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 644-1100, or purchase them online.