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Review From The House: Glengarry Glen Ross

Bill Dow and Josh Drebit in Glengarry Glen Ross: Photo by Mike SlyGlengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
Directed by Stephen Malloy
Little  Mountain Studio (195  East 26th Ave)
Main Street Theatre Company
Nov 19 to 29, 2008 (not on Nov 24)

Vancouver, BC: Land-line, cell-phone, I-phone, Blackberry - whatever you use to communicate, call the Main Street Theatre Equity Co-op info line at 604-992-2313, and tell them you want to see Glengarry Glen Ross.  Stephen Malloy's tightly directed production of  Mamet's play about a bunch of unscrupulous fast-talking real estate salesmen is especially timely in view of events in the US. As I watched the slick tag-team of has-been Shelly Levene (Bill Dow) and current top-of -his game Richard Roma (Alex Ferguson) bamboozle the timid, elderly Lingk (Patrick Keating), I found myself saying a silent thank you to my wonderful, careful and considerate realtor-friend who helped me in my downsizing phase and didn't try to sell me the Burrard Bridge!

This was an  apt play for the rather awkward playing space at  Little Mountain Studios. The first act is set in a restaurant  booth and the second in the office of the real estate company.  Reconfiguring the seating at intermission, Malloy made the best possible use of what really is not an ideal space for a play. 

Although I have read the play I have previously neither seen it in production nor viewed the 1992 film version so I had no preconceived ideas.  I thought every cast member hit the perfect pitch for his character. The play centers on four real estate salesmen, Aaronow (Ryan Beil),  Moss (Daryl King),  Levene  and Roma, who work out of an office managed by Williamson (Josh Drebit), selling dubious real estate to vulnerable clients. Glengarry and Glen Ross are two of the properties they are flogging.  Blake (Michael P. Northey),  a verbally abusive "motivational" guy from head office (a part added in the film version for Alec Baldwin),  comes to tell them that all except the top two salesman will be fired in the next week so they had better produce. Fighting for survival, all are desperate to get  good leads to close. Following the theft of the Glengarry leads from the office, Baylen (Ian Butcher), a detective comes in to investigate.

I was trying to figure out why I loved this play so much when it has so many characteristics that generally drive me crazy.  The play is more a snapshot in time than a story with a great dramatic arc and the main characters are either amoral and deceitful or pathetic victim types. But con man or victim,  his characters don't just sit around and whine, They have  energy and drive and they fight for their lives, even if their methods are be less than admirable.

The words f-ck or f-cking are liberally used throughout the play.  Obsessive as I am I did not actually count them in the script but  that great reference source, Wikipedia, indicates that they are used more than 150 times or once every 40 seconds of stage time.   Yet Mamet's characters are so brilliantly defined by their speech patterns,  and the staccato dialogue with interrupted half-finished sentences, repetitions and interjections is so real  and so well done by this cast, that one becomes numb to the profanity just as his characters are.

I was going to rave about Dow's finely nuanced portrayal of Levene and then I realized that I would be similarly raving about each of the others - so enough with the superlatives. This is an excellent production of a wonderfully written play with a stellar cast - oops! more superlatives. 

There are not many performances left. Don't miss it. I cant  wait to see what this group of actors come up with next.