The Edge Theater has put on several strong female ensemble shows in the past (Extremities, Some Girls), but now it’s the men’s time to shine. And shine they do in Edge’s outstanding production of Glengarry Glen Ross, playing now through February 19th. David Mamet's classic 1984 "always be closing" play about the desperation and drama surrounding cutthroat real estate brokers remains pertinent in this time of recession and foreclosures. Our four unethical real estate agents would fit right in with the modern day hucksters who sold inflated mortgages to unsuspecting buyers in recent years, many of whom have found themselves overextended, overmortgaged, and basically over it.
Scene one introduces us to the desperate side of making it or breaking it in the real estate game as Shelley “The Machine” Levene, a seasoned salesman, tries to strike a deal with his boss John Williamson. Levene has a wonderfully overwrought confidence and his monologue smacks of such cunning distress that it’s almost palpable. The next scene is the funniest of them all as bumbling follower George Aaronow and loud, scheming asshole Dave Moss concoct a devious plan to steal all of the best leads for prime properties Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms (love the money bit!) Paul Page and Verl Hite are spot on in these roles, overlapping dialogue and rhythm in perfect synchronicity. In the final scene of Act I, we meet smooth operator Ricky Roma as he sweet talks timid James Lingk into buying property. There is an odd part in this scene that is probably my only criticism of the show – a woman is introduced to enhance Roma's virile playboy attitude. This, unfortunately, does not boost this wonderful monologue at all, but feels more like an overdone cliché. The strength of this monologue does not need extra props (and that is the only purpose this woman serves) it can stand on its own and would be stronger for it. Other than this unnecessary entry, Act I is a perfect example of how to hook an audience’s attention.
Act II opens with the confused chaos and devastation of the real estate office after it is broken into the night before. There is some truly spectacular stage blocking in this act, wherein the actors utilize every angle of the audience’s perception. The conference room antics – which could be seen only though a rear window – are a true feat of motion, dialogue, and gesture. Each actor in this scene has a monologue and each actor brings their respective characters to life in this moment. Moss's “f**k you speech” is hysterical and Levene's sales monologue nearly convinced me to buy some prime property somewhere in the backwaters of Florida (I’m still looking over the contract). Roma's scheming plot to save his sale is simultaneously funny, conniving, and hopelessly sad, and Lingk does well with everything being thrown at him like it’s shooting out of a cannonball launcher. The power struggle and final, stabbing twist between Levene and office manager Williamson is an exchange to witness, as is Levene's world crashing down around him. "It is not a world of men. We are members of a dying breed, that's why we have to stick together."
It’s rare to find a cast with no weak link (no pun intended Mr. Lingk), but each member of this
ensemble is absolutely exceptional. Paul Page as frantic over-the-hill, one-foot-out-the-door Levene offers a stellar performance. This is a well-rounded character that Page has obviously nurtured. From his first anxious speech in Act I to him “making the sale” in Act II and the devastating twist at the end, Page is mesmerizing, walking the line between bat-shit desperation and cool, persuasive salesman. James O'Hagan Murphy as Levene’s boss and nemesis makes some suitably quirky decisions about his role (think germophobe Sheldon on Big Bang Theory) and stays consistently neurotic throughout the play. Rick Yaconis as crafty wheeler dealer Roma exudes charisma – this guy could sell ketchup packets to a woman wearing white gloves, no doubt. Richard Cowden as Moss and Verl Hite as Aaronow bring the funny and provide excellent rhythmic banter. For a smaller part, Michael Ingram obviously took some time developing Lingk's gullible character. Ryan Goold as no-nonsense Detective Baylen is commanding and does a great job anchoring the chaos in Act II, which could have easily turned into a silly Marx Brothers farce, but didn’t.
The sets by designer Kelly Westback are well thought out, utilizing the space efficiently with fluid set changes between. The Chinese restaurant for Act I was so appropriately tacky that I wanted to order the #4 combo plate. Sometimes production teams forget the extra touches and the set literally looks like a set and does not completely submerge the audience in the show. I want the stage managers and prop masters to know I appreciate the small touches and props that were brought in for each scene (plates with actual Chinese food on them, glasses, silverware), all of which helped to enhance the authenticity of the scenes. I also liked that there were three tables (one for each scene), giving the set more dimension and diversity in perspective. In Act II there is a total transformation into the trashed real estate office and the destruction is dang impressive (a few someones had fun messing up the set at intermission!) Every aspect of the stage is utilized, right down to the backdoor. There is one other great touch I noticed at intermission – the motivational posters along the theater walls. Remember the ones in the guidance counselor’s office in high school? Yeah, those. This subtle act only helped to enhance the entire experience.