If you’re at all familiar with Glengarry Glen Ross, either the play or the film adaptation, and you think there’s even a chance you might be interested in PURE Theatre’s production, you should go.
The direction, acting, and overall production are very-good-to-great, and honor the source material while injecting ample life into the story of an office full of self-serving swindlers trying to enrich themselves by taking maximum advantage of their customers. Many of them fighting for their professional lives under threat of an oft-mentioned upcoming round of firings based on short-term sales figures.
The set design is fantastic, as the first act’s unobtrusive Chinese restaurant gives way in the second act to a surreal take on the sales office that people were still talking about as they left the theater. The juiciest roles, those of Richard Roma and Shelly Levine, go to David Mandel and Randy Neale, respectively. Mandel’s Roma is smooth and unrepentantly manipulative, although his soft spot for his aging mentor Levine leaks through. Neale, meanwhile, manages to inject so much desperation into his performance that even his 2nd act moments of braggadocio and contempt reek of the self-doubt and desperation felt by a man who knows he’s past his prime and fading fast.
Director Erin Wilson does a wonderful job giving the actors room to discover their own versions of these characters, while keeping the pacing brisk and the plot clear. Her comfort with both the material and her actors (all members of PURE’s core ensemble) is evident throughout.
That familiarity suits the story of these men who spend so many of their waking hours together, telling war stories and trying to outdo one another while always trying to get to the top of the sales board. The play won the Pulitzer in 1984, and the playwright, David Mamet, has been recognized with multiple Tony and Oscar nominations over the course of his career — he’s justifiably recognized as a master at depicting the late-capitalist modern man in his natural environment. The rapid-fire dialogue and knotty rhythms of characters’ speech are a pleasure to witness delivered by the seasoned pros on the stage, and it’s hard to imagine many people leaving disappointed by the experience.
Of course, the play isn’t for everyone — there isn’t a hint of romance, and the closest thing Glengarry has to a female character is the off-screen buzzkill wife of customer James Lingk (played with just the right amount of nervous shame and fear by Laurens Wilson). Otherwise, PURE’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross is highly recommended. It’s a play that seems tailor-made for this talented group of veteran artists, who shine across the board, and it doesn’t disappoint.
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