When push comes to shove, how much is too much? If first place in a Sales competition got you a Cadillac, second place got you a set of steak knives, and third place got you fired - in a tough economy, you’d do whatever is necessary to come out on top: you’d lie, you’d cheat, you’d do anything you could to obey the office mantra: ABC - “Always Be Closing”. Why not? It’s the early 1980s, the recession, and you work in the cutthroat business of real estate sales.
Although Glengarry Glen Ross may sound like a wonderful Scotch; it is the 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Mamet about salesmen in a struggling real estate firm trying to sell undesirable property to unwitting prospective buyers, and the burglary/theft of their stolen sales lead sheets. The story takes place in Chicago over a period of two days. Mamet regularly challenges his audience with pressure cooker stories and his actors with wonderfully nuanced writing.
Pit & Balcony’s production, which opened on March 15th, is up to the challenge.
The Director (and scenic designer), Danielle Katsoulos, took us on a fun rollercoaster ride of a production. Her pacing, staging, and casting all wonderfully highlighted the talent available within the Great Lakes Bay Region. This is her second time directing at P&B, and she designed a nicely workable set. Her first act Chinese restaurant beautifully countered her run-down office for the second act. Although her office was functional and told the audience a lot about the world of the play, the use of an interior window created unnecessary distractions. Because it was backlit, the light coming through the blinds foreshadowed the entrance of an actor about to enter. As this window is located in a strong position on the stage, the preparation for an entrance by an upcoming actor’s shadow repeatedly distracted me from the action on stage.
Katsoulos was able to collaborate with a good production team. The sound design of L’Oreal Hartwell transported the audience back to the 1980s via “classic rock” during the pre-show music and we were introduced to the distinctly different scenic elements between the first and second acts though fun and specific musical choices. The lighting design by Bailey Banks was effective in creating both the ambient setting of a Chinese restaurant and the fluorescent glare of a run-down office. She did a nice job of incorporating practical light into her design. The technical cues were smoothly called by Stage Manager Amy Spadafore. However, the light cue that ended the first act and transitioned into the intermission was a bit too quick and bright for my eyes to adjust. The costume design, by Erica Tatum, highlighted the office hierarchy well and stayed within a wonderfully bland color palate that offered just the right amount of suspenders and slicked hair to help highlight the time period.
This production also had a team of seven strong actors that evoked developed characters and specific personality types. A challenge of this script might be that the characters potentially read as somewhat stereotypical, deceptive, and unlikeable. However, this ensemble deftly created personable and charming characters throughout. The script is written in a very conversational manner and the all-male cast mostly hit the difficult repartee. Their conversations were so well done in some scenes that in the ones that were not as crisp, it stood out. Overall though, this group did a great job of keeping up with Mamet’s clipped, overlapping dialogue style. The ensemble had a variety of vocal play, were grounded in their physical choices, and they played well off of each other. Todd Thomas played an engaging and empathetic Shelly Levene, Rustin Myers balanced the charisma and aggressive quality of the top salesman Ricky Roma, and Shawn Finney’s portrayal of Dave Moss stood out with a loud and brash style of a 1980s Rush Limbaugh.
I recommend seeing this production; this Pulitzer Prize winning play has a powerful story of comradery and deception. The performance is about one hour and forty-five minutes long with an intermission. Because the pacing of the story moves along so quickly, you’ll be surprised that the play is finished as quickly as is it.
If you are not familiar with the works of David Mamet, this 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play is a great introduction to the contemporary American playwright. If you are familiar with his work, this nuanced production highlights both the drama and comedy in the piece. Please note, Mamet’s work is often laden with vulgarity and this play is no exception. If strong language offends you, this play is probably not the best one for you.
Tickets for Glengarry Glen Ross at Pit & Balcony Theatre can be purchased online, in person, or by phone