Heading in to David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross one wonders if The Avalon Studio production will compare favourably to the excellent movie version with Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin & Al Pacino. Be assured, this is no poor cousin but a relentlessly vicious and vital theatrical experience of Mamet’s world of shady salesmen and dark deeds.
Glengarry Highlands & Glen Ross Farms are two undesirable developments in Florida. We follow 24hours in the lives of a gang of thuggish real-estate agents competing on the company leader board in a race of diminishing markets with a punishingly masochistic office manager at the helm. Prepare for profanity and to witness every unethical trick in the book in Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece; an uncompromising ode to ethical vacuity and the desperation wrought by the art of the deal.
Act1 delivers three quick-fire 2-hander scenes set in the cloying red Chinese restaurant across from the office. Shelley “the Machine” Levene (Tom Charlebois) is the aging company man facing off with the younger office-manager John Williamson (Leslie Cserepy). Levene accuses the boss of dishing out poor leads “You’re giving me fucking toilet paper.” Charlebois’ metamorphose from false bravado to sweaty, twitching desperation versus Cserepy’s taunting cocksure sadist imbued the theatre with a contagious and palpable tension.
The introduction of Dave Moss (John Muggleton) and George Aaronow (Chris Ralph) alleviated the mood as Muggleton & Ralph take unethical lows to a new high with well-paced quick-talking dialogue prompting a spontaneous outburst of applause. Act 1 closes with Ricky Roma (Steve Martin) smooth talking a chance encounter with James Lingk (Dale MacEarchern) the puppet-strings fairly visible so silky is the spider web spun. Martin is slightly reminiscent of Al Pacino in this role which temporarily breaks the spell before he hits his stride.
Characters established, the 2nd act concerns the investigation of the overnight office burglary of the “good leads”. The office, in complete disarray, sees Moss incandescent at the interviews being conducted by Detective Baylen (David Whiteley). John Muggleton fairly owns the stage in this brief explosive scene. Meanwhile client Lingk is swimming with sharks when faced with Roma & Levene as he tries to cancel his purchase of the day before. And the stage is set for the final downward spiral as the production dives gleefully to its heart of darkness.
Individually adept the cast work seamlessly as a team creating an evening that is sharp, ruthless and vigorous. Geoff Gruson’s direction is assured; he keeps the motley gang of character performances tight; maintaining a captivating tempo where individual performances shine without detracting from the ensemble. Glengarry Glen Ross is Mamet at his best; capturing a powerfully impotent and angry “world of men”. This revival, from dimmed lights to curtain call, fervently and competently embodies the salesmen’s maxim “Always be Closing”.