GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
If you want a close look at the roots of the current economic crisis, hustle on over to a hole in the wall at 26th and Main and see if you can scam someone out of a ticket to David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Scamming is what Mamet’s characters do best, along with boasting and lying about their scamming in orgies of delusionary self-congratulations about what straight-up men they really are.
A new Equity Co-op called Main Street Theatre crams Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play into a tiny room that seats about 40 and provides a note-perfect, in-your-face anatomy of macho American capitalism at its scariest, funniest and most pathetic.
Mamet’s foulmouthed Chicago real estate salesmen who specialize in convincing vulnerable suckers to buy Florida swampland with fancy names like Glengarry Highlands are today’s Wall Street bankers and brokers—peddlers of sub-prime mortgages and mortgage-backed securities in cheap ‘80s suits. The ABC of their businesses is simple: Always Be Closing. What they’re selling isn’t important, truth has no value, and the customer is never right except when he’s signing.
But maybe what’s most astonishing is the sense these guys have of their own virtue and entitlement. “It’s not a world of men,” complains Roma (Alex Ferguson), the firm’s top salesman, fresh from ripping off gormless Mr. Lingk (Patrick Keating). “We are the members of a dying breed,” he sighs. But he’s wrong. The greed-is-good mentality remains alive and well.
Stephen Malloy directs an adept company of eight who perform Mamet’s staccato score with perfect pitch. Even during scene changes drummer Rex Fenton keeps the beat going. An astute protégé of Harold Pinter, to whom he dedicated the play, Mamet is a master of rhythmic dialogue. His characters talk compulsively to keep reality at bay, and this cast nails the Mamet yammer.
Bill Dow shines as desperate over-the-hill salesman Shelley “the Machine” Levene. Josh Drebit powerfully contains Williamson, the office manager on the receiving end of torrents of verbal abuse. Daryl King’s scheming Moss makes up a fine vaudeville duo with Ryan Beil’s Aaronow, who clearly isn’t tough enough to survive in this Darwinian jungle. Ferguson’s Roma is chilling and Keating’s Lingk the perfect victim. Michael P. Northey plays Blake, the head-office bully written for the movie, with withering scorn, and Ian Butcher is strong as the cop investigating the office robbery that will undo at least one of our masters of the universe.
Malloy does wonders with the tiny space, using its two doors to great effect, evoking an office with a single desk, and beautifully lighting a restaurant scene with a couple of cheap lamps from Ikea.