The dilemma of capitalism as seen from the underbelly of the real estate world is coming to you directly from the brilliant mind of David Mamet, Fells Point Corner Theatre presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross. Directed by Barry Feinstein, this production is one of Mamet’s most famous and well-recognized works; a gritty and harsh exploration of reality in the dog-eat-dog world of sales in the real estate business. It’s not enough to good at what you do and you can’t hit a bad streak, because the tables are constantly changing. A fast-paced in-your-face drama that gives the audience a fresh perspective in regards to sales, this production lives up to the playwright’s expressive intentions.
Set Designer Bush Greenbeck has his work cut out for him taking the shorter first half of the show from inside the restaurant – to the longer second half inside the trashed real estate office, but does so with respectable ease. The upheaval of the office at the beginning of Act II looks realistic with furniture dismantled and upended and papers strewn from one end of the space to the other. Greenbeck brings the reality of Mamet’s setting as close to the audience as possible without breaking the fourth wall, truly encompassing that idea of ‘in-your-face’ theatre that Mamet is known for.
Director Barry Feinstein has selected seven seasoned actors that are more than appropriately fitted for their roles in this production. Feinstein’s simplistic blocking allows the actors freedom as their characters rant and rave about the stage, putting Mamet’s colorful language into full effect. Despite the play’s esoteric and narrowly focused nature, Feinstein’s vision allows every member of the audience to take away something personable and relatable even if they are not wholly involved with real estate or sales.
Seen briefly in Act II, Baylen (Jonathan Sachsman) is the officer with a short fuse. Knowing only one level of vocal extreme, Sachsman portrays his constant annoyance through shouting and bursting into the office as if he’s about to rob the place himself rather than investigate the robbery. His interactions with the others occur off-stage but every time he reappears it’s with a new surge of fury in his voice and facial features.
In a group of hot-blooded men there is bound to be a nervous Nelly and George Aronow (William Walker) is that one in this bunch. Winding little nervous ticks like a well-paced stutter into his performance, Walker embodies the jittery feeling of a man teetering on the edge of panic. Easily intimidated in his long scene with Dave, Aronow flips the coin around and has a spastic eruption of full blown panic in Act II, which provides momentary amusement in this otherwise serious drama.
Outside the group of real estate moguls is the equally nervous but twice as nerdy James Lingk (David Shoemaker). Played mostly silent for the first act, Shoemaker imbues his character with a tremulous quality from the way he sort of shuffles and twitches to the way his words are barely squeaked out of his lips. With limited stage time he makes the most of his character’s quirks and has the audience sympathizing with him in no time at all.
Someone’s always to blame when things take a turn for the worse and everyone in this play turns John (Tyrone Requer) into that man. Spending most of his time being yelled at, Requer’s primary mode of communication is through his silent moody facial expressions, each one showing just how furious he is at having to stand there and take the onslaught of verbal belligerence that the older salesmen of the office spew at him. Requer does get a chance to vindicate his person, however, by the end of the production he’s had his say and his character’s stalwart existence is proven worthwhile.
Slick Dave Moss (Vic Cheswick Jr.) is the epitome of sleaze. A high-rolling unctuous seedy character that makes you despise him from the moment he starts spitting his plan at Aronow, Cheswick embodies villainy in a masterful sense, more brazen than anything else, and watching him squirm as he prepares to take the hot seat is all too rewarding for the audience. His conviction in his delivery is impressive, the way he slanders the others with a quick and lascivious tongue, punctuating each of those more flavorful words with an extra bite makes him the one to watch.
Ricky Roma (Howard Berkowitz) is a much more subdued version of slimy salesman. Not nearly as obnoxious as Cheswick’s character, Berkowitz gets to ease into the role of sleaze much more subtly, using soothing vocal tones and clever turn of phrase to do so. By comparison, his manipulations look like opportunities, making his character much more agreeable to the audience’s eye.
The crux of the show is carried on Shelly Levene’s (Jeff Murray) shoulders. Delivering a multi-dimensional character whose faces flip 180 degrees and back again from the desperate man at the end of his rope to a cocky confident SOB, Murray performs with sensational tenacity and a firm grip of the salesman’s reality. With a sliding accent that hits somewhere between New York and Chicago, his performance as the desperate man is captivating as we watch him spin every angle, trying to throw every emotion he can muster into all of those words.
When Act II rolls into play Murray is a completely different character, loaded with confidence as if he’s found his mojo and is once again cock of the walk. But this newfound assertive behavior is quickly blown away during the end of the production, and his machismo charisma deflates back into pleading desperation once more. It’s a dynamic performance that livens up Mamet’s character exponentially.
Running Time: Two hours, with one intermission.
Glengarry Glen Ross plays through June 9, 2013 at The Fells Point Corner Theatre – 251 South Ann Street in upper Fells Point, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call (410) 276-7837, or purchase them online.