by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Players by the Sea opened David Mamet’s GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS in their studio theatre, at 106 Sixth Street in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. This play will run through September 7, call 248-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org for reservations.
Players offers theatre fans a rare opportunity to see a Pulitzer Prize winning play (1984). We say ‘rare’ because only six of the Pulitzer winners in the past twenty have been done on local stages. Players will raise our percentage with “Rent” and “Angels in America” scheduled for later during the current season.
Be forewarned, Glengarry is a play with Mamet’s signature strong language. If you find profanity offensive, then you may possibly want to pass.This play is filled with a pervasive shabbiness of language, incomplete sentences, awkward repetitions and omnipresent clichés.
This is a character study chronicling some forty-eight hours in the lives of a group of sleazy Chicago real estate salesman in the 1980s. Their jobs are threatened by downsizing, the ones who get to stay will be determined by the outcome of a callously designed sales contest. And they are con men who are desperate to close sales on worthless parcels of Florida land, using leads that have been worked and reworked.
Act I has three scenes, all in a small Chinese restaurant frequented by the salesman. Shelly Levene (T. R. HAINLINE) is an old-school sales hack who some years ago was a top producer; he has fallen on hard times. He sits at a table with his office manager, John Williamson (LARRY KNIGHT), pleading for him to release some of the new prime company-generated leads so he can revive his career and keep his job. Williamson says he is not authorized to release the leads, they are only to be given to successful closers. Lavene tries to bribe him with a promise of twenty percent of his commissions, but to no avail.
Scene 2 finds Dave Moss (LAWRENCE HESSION) and George Aaronow (LOU AGRESTA) berating the company for the way they treat the salesmen. The very loud and volatile Moss suggests they break into the office that night and steal the leads, which he will then sell to a former colleague who is currently having great success as an independent salesman.
Scene 3 has the smooth talking, top dog salesman, Richard Roma (DOUG NEMETH) sitting at a table enjoying a drink and then engaging James Lingk(KENNETH DOWLING JR), a customer at an adjacent table, in casual conversation. He hits the naïve Lingk with a subtle sales pitch and makes a large sale; the contract will make him the winner of the sales contest.
Act ll takes place the next day at the company’s office, which is a mess. It was burglarized overnight and phones, contracts, and the packet of prime leads have been stolen. The final character enters the picture with the arrival of Baylen (JOSEPH STEARMAN) who is a local detective investigating the theft. We will put aside further discussion of the plot, since the scene is a pivotal one, with several surprises, none of them happy, leading to the play’s conclusion.
This is a typical Mamet play. He lets his characters interact and gradually reveal themselves. Mamet wields this time-honored technique with admirable assurance. He writes characters that can blast and scorch a whole human landscape with their tirades.
PAUL CARELLI in his directing debut at Players has created a tension-filled drama and has meticulously worked out performances that fill every moment with business and intentions. This is a powerful theatre experience that is superbly acted. The dialogue is rip-roaring fast and the timing has to be perfect; the excellent cast met the many challenges of this demanding award-winning play.
The set by ANNE ROBERTS, with lighting by JIM WIGGINS and JOE SCHWARZ, delights with a creatively stylized bright red interior for the restaurant scene, which is then replaced with a realistically detailed office interior. LINDSAY CURRY co-originated the costumes which consisted of men’s business wear in the 1980s. Stage Manager KATHERINE THAMES, along with props assistants SAMATHA CRISTOL, JORDAN HARTSFIELD and JIM HENSON, kept things running smoothly.
As rough and tumble as this sounds, there is quite a bit of humor, although on the dark side. It is something we did not note at all in the highly acclaimed movie version that we recently viewed. If fine acting and good scripts are your thing, you will certainly enjoy your evening with the brash men of Glengarry Glen Ross. And, reflecting on past experience while, for example, considering purchases of automobiles or vacation retreats, or functioning in a dehumanizing corporate environment, you may find a contemporary relevance in their portrayals.
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM