Review: ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ at Ghostlight Players and Clifton’s Got Drama by Leslie Anne Ross

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Soaring performances in Glengarry Glen Ross

As with most not-for-profit theatre, the richness is in the performances.  With Glengarry Glen Ross, we are rich indeed. Produced by Ghostlight Players and Clifton’s Got Drama, this production is led by the ever creative director, Leland Shook. Performed at the Clifton Town Hall, the cast spends their one hour, forty-five minutes on stage living by their wits in David Mamet’s Tony Award nominated play where survival depends on the sale. Also having won the Pulitzer Prize, the play shows parts of two days in the lives of four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts—from lies and flattery to bribery, threats, intimidation and burglary—to sell undesirable real estate to unwitting prospective buyers. It is based on Mamet’s experience having previously worked in a similar office.

Aranow and Moss share their frustration over drinks at the bar. Gene Shmeil and Jason Foster. Photo by Leland Shook Photography.
Aranow (Gene Shmeil) and Moss (Jason Foster) share their frustration over drinks at the bar. Photo by Leland Shook Photography.

On a nearly bare stage, with the Chinese restaurant of the first act merely represented by three red paper lanterns, we are taken into the lives of the characters through three seemingly unrelated conversations. We meet Shelly “The Machine” Levene, played by D. Scott Graham, who performs with desperation coming from every pore. Graham gives us a man on the precipice willing to bride and perhaps even steal to “get on the board.” The audience is willing to cheer Shelly on in his despair due to the full-bodied and nuanced performance of Graham.

We meet John Williamson, played by the stoic and enigmatic Tim Bambara.  John takes a verbal beating from numerous characters and seems to be operating on a slow boil. We are satisfied in the end when Bambara is rewarded with a glorious comeback.

Aranow and Moss share their frustration over drinks at the bar. Gene Shmeil and Jason Foster. Photo by Leland Shook Photography.
Levene (D. Scott Graham) pitches Williamson (Tim Bambara) on a business proposition, but can he close the deal? Photo by Leland Shook Photography.
At the next table, we are voyeurs in the conversation between David Moss, played perfectly overbearing by Jason Foster, and the older, man on his way out, George Aaronow, played by the sympathetic Gene Schmiel. The dialog comes fast and fragmented with great comic turns.

Finally, we meet Rickie. Rickie Roma was cast outside of expectations … as a woman. A woman forced to be tough in this cut-throat male dominated world, Rickie is played with strength and treachery as she fights to keep herself at the top of the board. Alexia Poe is a seasoned actress who works throughout the metro area and brings a special and fascinating performance – balls to the wall. Seated with Roma, is James Lingk, played with subtly and simplicity by Zachary Thaler. Add to this the no-nonsense Detective Baylen, played by Mickey Butler, and you have a cast who blend the theatrical unreality of the play with the reality of people in a cold, greed-driven business peppered by particularly brutal language.

 ALexia Poe and Zachary Thaler. Photo by Leland Shook Photography.
Rickie Roma (Alexia Poe) and James Lingk (Zachary Thaler). Photo by Leland Shook Photography.

It is a feast for the ears, eyes, and the mind as we are focused to question our own brutal instincts. How many times has civility won out and we have bitten our tongue to keep from saying the worst thing we can think of? These people do not edit and we, the audience, are richer for it.

The bareness of the set dressing designed by D. Scott Graham, and the starkness of the lighting by Kurt Gustafson, with props by Pat Jannell, served the actors well, giving them a playing space to confront their adversaries and feed their own demons. If opening night is any indication, this production will only continue to soar (or sore depending on whose side you’re on).

Come out to the Clifton Town Hall and see a show you will not soon forget.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

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Glengarry Glen Ross plays through Sunday September 11, 2016 at Ghostlight Players and Clifton’s Got Drama performing at the Clifton Town Hall – 12641 Chapel Road, in Clifton, VA. For tickets, purchase them online or at the door.

This review is by Guest Reviewer Leslie Anne Ross.