‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ at Elden Street Players by Don Michael Mendoza

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David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a look into the lives of four real estate agents looking to do what it takes – whether it be lying, cheating, and what would eventually become a burglary – to come out on top, and the show itself also stems from a personal reflection of Mamet’s own experiences working in a real estate office in the 1960’s. The Elden Street Players’ production, directed by Rosemary Hartman, definitely gives its audience an excellent glimpse into the cutthroat world of competition and high sales goals that the play promises in its pages.

The cast of 'Glengarry Glen Ross.' L to R: Michael Clendenin (Baylen), Ted Culler (Aaranow), Ian Brown (Williamson) Seated, L to R: Michael Kharfen (Levine), Chuck Dluhy (Roma), Rosemary Hartman (Director), Richard Durkin (Lingk), and Kevin Dykstra (Moss). Photo by Ian Brown.

I walked in to the Industrial Strength Theatre and was surprised to find myself walking through a Chinese restaurant to get to my seat on the other side of the space. I sat down and as the lights dimmed I immediately heard the sounds of busy eatery all around me, which made the experience authentic right from the thanks to Sound Designer Ben Allen.

As for the set, the show took place in a restaurant, then in a real estate office. At first, the walls of the setting were so high I was not sure it would change into a real estate office, but I was delighted to see Skip Gresko’s design open up and transform right before my eyes during intermission. However, what really made the entire set, restaurant and office, was the detail put into making everything look accurate and “lived in,” rather than just the hollow outline of where the show’s setting was, by Set Decorators Evan Hoffmann and Theresa Nichols.

Roma (Chuck Dluhy), Levene (Michael Kharfen) and Moss (Kevin Dykstra) discuss sales. Photo by Traci J. Brooks.

The real pleasure of this production was, of course, the performances from the cast. Overall, all of the cast members were excellent and committed in their roles. It’s a difficult task to develop a character and make a personality different from yours your own, but it was obvious that Michael Kharfen (Levene), Chuck Dluhy (Roma), Kevin Dykstra (Moss), Ted Culler (Aaronow), Ian Brown (Williamson), Richard Durkin (Lingk), and Michael Clendenin (Baylen) took the time to make each of their characters stand out.

I especially enjoyed Kharfen, Dluhy, and Dykstra’s performances. Although the ensemble’s chemistry came to life in the scene when all of the characters were interrogated about the break in, these three men presented strong entrances in act 1 and really came into their own in act 2 where their true colors came through when faced with high stakes.

Kharfen drew me and the audience in when he entered at the start of the show and presented a desperate bottom rung sales agent  who had little to no success, and in the latter part of the show he really proved what a powerful actor he was during the final office confrontation, when Levene  takes a turn for the worst.

Dluhy and Dykstra both pulled off the arrogance their characters required with ease  in act 1, but also made their agents likable and humorous into and all through the second act. Even though these men used their charm to benefit themselves and manipulate other people, these characters’ journeys portrayed were enthralling from their entrances in the restaurant scene – to the high-drama interrogation office scene.

Desperation is the main theme of this play, and I take my hat off to the Elden Street Players for presenting an accurate level of that in this enjoyable production. Kudos to the brilliant cast. I left the theatre fulfilled, educated and entertained.

Running Time: Two hours with  one 15 minute intermission.

Glengarry Glen Ross plays through April 7, 2012 at The Elden Street Players’ Industrial Strength Theatre – 269 Sunset Park Drive, in Herndon Virginia.  For tickets call (703) 481-5930, or order them online.