Glengarry Glen Ross
Most of Mamet's gritty look inside salesmen's souls gets lost in surface performances
Reviewed by Dan Solomon, Fri., March 9, 2012
Glengarry Glen RossHyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd, 921-4264
Through March 10
Running time: 1 hr., 50 min.
There are really only two reasons to mount a production of a play as deeply embedded in the American theatre canon as Glengarry Glen Ross in the year 2012: Either you've found something new in it – some way to make it responsive to the lingering recession and the real estate bubble, maybe, or a fresh understanding of the relationships among David Mamet's four famous salesmen jockeying for a chance to prove their manhood in a dire sales contest – or you've opted to stage a museum piece, a chance to see Glengarry Glen Ross the way that it's been seen by audiences around the world.
The production of Glengarry Glen Ross by a chick & a dude productions doesn't effectively accomplish either goal, unfortunately. Mamet's script remains taut and intriguing as it follows those four salesmen, either on their way up or their way down in the business of pushing shady real estate deals onto their marks and desperately seeking the sales leads that will allow them to find customers with the cash to pay for them. The stakes remain high as we learn what success and failure means to the men and to what lengths they'll go – including breaking into their own office – in order to turn a profit. But that's all built into the play, and the production struggles to do much with it.
Director Melissa Livingston-Weaver seems to have tossed out most of the "how to perform Mamet" handbook, which would be a bold choice if it looked like she had a vision of what to replace it with. Instead, the performances are blustering and shouty, with none of the simmering rage, resentment, and disappointment that the best performances of the material utilize. Robert Deike plays Moss, the salesman who masterminds the robbery that occurs between the act break, as a blustering, red-faced blowhard whom it's impossible to imagine successfully selling water in the desert; Aaron Black as the perpetually nervous salesman Aaronow seems to spend most of his stage time tugging at his collar; Robert Berry as smarmy office manager Williamson plays the role of the heavy without much in the way of gravity.
The performance is at its best when its strongest actors – Tom Green as the aging former sales star Shelly "The Machine" Levene and Shanon Weaver as the up-and-comer Ricky Roma – dominate the action, and Livingston-Weaver is wise to have cast them as the show's leads. They have a natural chemistry that carries most of their scenes, and little details – wannabe big-man Weaver's ill-fitting suit and Green's doddering, affable delivery of every one of Levene's lines – give a glimpse of what the production might have been. What it is, though, is a performance of classic work that seems to get lost in surface interpretations of rich material.