GLENGARRY GLEN ROSSBy David Mamet
Director – Ashley H. White
Stage manager – Madeleine Morris
Scenic Designer – Ellen Mizener
Lighting Designer – Hudson Davis
Costume Designer – Jessie Wallace
Shelly Levene – Mark Oristano
Richard Roma - Joe Messina
Dave Moss – Kevin Moore
George Aaronow – Lon Barrera
John Williamson – Shane Beeson
James Lingk – Ian Mead Moore
Baylen – Sean Massey
Reviewed Performance: 1/13/2018
Reviewed by Mark-Brian Sonna, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“Glengarry Glen Ross” is David Mamet’s powerhouse play which went on to win the Pulitzer and a bevy of Tony nominations when it premiered three decades ago. This play is about the cut-throat salesmen who sell dubious properties. They all want leads, they are in competition against each other, and when their office is ransacked and the leads are stolen, all are suspect. None of the characters are likeable yet they all are fascinating and engage the audience. The play is notorious for its vulgar language, but it is all in context. These trolls would use this language, and while it may be unpleasant to the ear it is very authentic. David Mamet captures perfectly the rhythm and cadences of these high pressured salesmen, and though vulgarities abound it is nearly poetic. Watching these men cajole, insult, and one up each other fascinates, hence the appeal.
Director Ashley H White puts a great deal of emphasis on the language in the production. With the aesthetic minimalist stark white set by Ellen Mizener, the effective harsh lighting of Hudson Davis, and the monochromatic costumes that enhance each characters status yet also comes across as generic, one can’t help but pay attention to the words spoken. It’s a plus and a minus. The plus side is we appreciate the poetry of Mamet, the downside is that the actors at times rely on the words more than the subtext of what is being spoken making the characters not quite 3 dimensional.
This is in part due to the staging. In the first act which happens at a Chinese restaurant the three scenes are static. Three different conversations are held, two at a table and one at a bar. The actors remain seated the entire time facing each other in the first two scenes. In the third one the two actors face out to the audience with the bar between in front of them. It isn’t till the near end of the third scene that there is some actual movement where the character Roma moves from one end of the bar to sit next to Lingk. This lack of movement is visually tedious, and forces the actors to rely on their vocal delivery to help deliver the plot. Fortunately White has assembled a cast of top notch actors that, overall, are quite successful in their performances considering they are so tethered to their seats. Act two has movement, and with the series of plot twists and revelations, White is most successful in conveying the chaos of the second act.
The performances are mostly terrific. As is the case with an ensemble piece some are not as terrific as others, but all of them are quite good.
The first scene of the play pairs up Mark Oristano with Shane Beeson as Leven and Williamson respectively. Oristano gets the bulk of the dialogue, and while he handles Mamet’s cadences quite effectively, it took a few minutes for his character to fully settle in. This said, once he did the lines flowed quite naturally and his performance was quite compelling. His character is the downtrodden salesman who is desperate to reach the heights he achieved as a salesperson when he was younger. He was very subtle in his portrayal and perhaps a little more heart on his sleeve would have made the audience connect with him, especially in act 2, but nonetheless he captured the essence of the character. Shane Beeson was nearly poker faced throughout the entire play, but in Act 2 he was able to convey the pent up rage without ever overplaying the role.
The second scene of the play is a meeting between the characters Aaronow and Moss and is the funniest of the play. Aaronow, played by Lon Barrera, is a bundle of nerves over the prospect of colluding with Moss, played by Kevin Moore, in robbing the leads. Barrera hits the mark in his portrayal 100% as does Moore. Moore plays Moss like a smug know-it-all who has gotten everything he wants because of his good looks, and mastery of manipulating people who aren’t as smart as he is. With just a pitch change he delivers his lines in a condescending fashion. What makes his performance so brilliantly comic is that Barrera who shares the scene with him never reacts to Moore’s seething delivery, hence making Barrera’s reactions funny, and thus causing the audience to guffaw even more to Moore’s caustic attitude. This co-dependent ying and yang in this scene makes the scene fly. Later in Act 2, both men play up their characters idiosyncrasies: Barrera’s Aaronow is in full tilt neurosis, and Moore’s Moss turns into a petulant brat. Both actors create very convincing character arcs.
The third scene of the first act pairs Joe Messina’s Richard Roma with Ian Mead Moore’s James Lingk. In this scene Roma does most of the talking with Lingk barely getting a word in edgewise. Messina sinks his teeth into the lengthy monologues and holds the audience’s interest. Moore mostly reacts in silence. This interplay between the two men is glorious. There isn’t a false moment in the entire scene. We know from the moment the scene starts that Roma has set his sights on Lingk as a future buyer. We also know that Lingk will be helpless in the sales con that is about to happen. This scene is perhaps the most difficult to pull off in the play since the dialogue is so one sided, but to see these two actors in action is thrilling. The choices Moore made in his active listening were perfect. The variation of deliver, tempo, speed, and pitch in the lines by Messina was superb. And in the second act when the power between the two men flips Lingk still has minimal lines and Roma does most of the speaking but the two men convey volumes of intent and emotion beyond the text. These two were able to break away from the dialogue and show us the subtext making them the most well rounded characters in the play.
Sean Massey who plays Baylen, the detective in charge of leading the investigation at the real estate office hits the mark every time he is on stage in Act 2. Though it is a smaller part he serves as a foil for all the characters. By the end of Act 1 the audience has been seduced and fallen under the spell of these real estate/con men. Baylen is the reality check. His presence on stage, brings home that this group of men inhabit an insane bubble. Though gruff, and at times insensitive, he is the only normal person in the room and thus highlights the outrageous behavior displayed by the characters. Massey plays the character so believably it didn’t come across as acting. He convinces.
This production of “Glenngarry Glen Ross” is a must see. I must confess I am not a David Mamet fan. I have never seen a play of his I’ve enjoyed, till now. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It is clear to see why this play is considered his masterpiece, and this production does it justice. Go see it.
Bath House Cultural Centre
521 E. Lawther Dr
Dallas TX 75218
Now through January 27, 2018
Performances are Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, Tickets $25. For information and tickets visit www.imprinttheatreworks.org