David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross" has always been about the actors. His trademark brand of machine-gun dialogue and well-lauded vulgarities are luscious mind candy for thespians lucky enough to spit out and suck in his clipped conversations.
So it's only fitting that director Mitchell Hebert has assembled a first-rate ensemble of local actors who boast, blitz and burn onstage at Round House Theatre.
We meet each of Mamet's four small-potatoes real estate agents over a trio of meals at a Chinese dive. First there's Rick Foucheux's brilliantly desperate Shelly Levene, wheeling back-pocket deals with the office manager (a steely KenYatta Rogers) in charge of doling out the "premium" leads; then there's Jeff Allin's deliciously biting Dave Moss, plotting and scheming with Conrad Feininger's timorous George Aaronow; and finally we meet the top-selling salesman from the office, Alexander Strain's cool cat Richard Roma, brazenly scamming Jesse Terrill's milquetoast target. They're all on the trail to top the sales board and win a brand new Cadillac.
And that's only the first act.
|'Glengarry Glen Ross'|
|» Where: Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda|
|» When: Through March 3|
|» Info: $10 to $61; 240-644-1100; roundhousetheatre.org|
Though the action is set in 1984 Chicago, "Glengarry Glen Ross" is an American tale, one that holds up a mirror to our understanding of greed, wealth, weakness, and what it means to chase after and even find "success." This is a raucous bunch of men without the purest of motives, trying to do whatever it takes to finagle the sale -- whether that means deceiving others or deceiving themselves.
Mamet's men spew a lot at one another, back and forth, with words left hanging in mid-sentence before another avalanche of thought washes away the last. In this early '80s work, Mamet was still fine-tuning his craft, orchestrating all the ways in which a character can flip a phrase or how well he can dart constant interruptions, and toying with how high his obscenities can fly. Hebert's cast has a field day with the grainy language, constantly asserting power over each other, volleying insults back and forth to figure out who will concede dominance first.
And they're mostly successful. Strain and Foucheux bite into their meaty roles with a hearty appetite, while Allin and Feininger deliver the juiciest bits of humor and wit. Hebert has chosen to present the evening without an intermission, and during its formidable transformation between acts, James Kronzer's set design is so impressive that it elicits its own applause.
Mamet's play is like a swift kick in the pants, and here he ends his episode in a sad state of aporia. We don't get to find out what happens to his four seedy salesmen, but we need only look to our own shady backyards for a candid resolution.