Pennsylvania Playhouse presents 'worthwhile' performance of "Glengarry Glen Ross"
By Dave Howell
Special to The Morning Call 12:17 PM EDT, June 9, 2009
"Glengarry Glen Ross" sounds idyllic, as it is the combined title of two fictional real estate developments similar to many of those lovely-sounding developments in our area. However, David Mamet's drama, which takes place in Chicago in 1984, is anything but calm and pleasant.
The one and a half hour, two-act play, now being presented by Pennsylvania Playhouse, is the story of desperate, driven men. Four real estate agents are in a sales contest. The winner gets a Cadillac, while the losers get fired. The losers are trapped in a cycle, since the best sellers get all the good sales leads.
The play has memorable acting that will stay with you for a long time, along with tight direction by Ralph Montesano. The characters make all the difference here, and their aggression, fears, anxieties, and duplicity all come alive to create a realistic story that holds you all the way.
There's a great deal of mature language, but it is necessary to show the brutality and ruthlessness of the world created by Mamet. Vibrant, uncompromising characterizations go beyond the real estate business to show how aggression and lack of morality affect these men and everything around them. The play seems even more relevent now than it in the 1980s, with today's subprime loans taking the place of the checks obtained by Mamet's salesmen.
"Glengarry" opens in a Chinese restaurant, with Shelly Levene (Joe Pionegro) and office manager John Williamson (Tim Brown). Levene, a former hotshot who has lost his spark, needs better leads from Williamson. His friendliness turns into wheedling, begging, and, finally, bribery. The latter fails only because Levene does not have cash on the spot.
After they leave, salesmen Dave Moss (Mike Febbo) and George Aaronow (Jerry Brucker) discuss robbing their office. The aggressive Moss's hypothetical situation turns out to be a serious proposal for a partnership in crime with the ineffectual Aaronow.
The next scene in the restaurant shows top salesman Richard Roma (Gene Connelly) talking to James Lingk (Seth Rohrbach) in the next booth. Roma rambles on about life and other subjects to Lingk, buddying up to him and, it turns out, cultivating him as a sales prospect.
Act II takes place in the just-robbed real estate office, where the staff is being questioned by Detective Baylen (Robert Trexler). The salesmen are more concerned about leads and contracts than the robbery itself. There are many confrontations amidst Roma's attempt to fool Lingk, who has shown up to cancel the deal at his wife's insistence.
Pennsylvania Playhouse is known for its musicals, which do better than
drama, especially harsh ones like this (although humor pops up from time
to time). That is a shame, If you skip this great show because of its
adult theme, you're missing something worthwhile.