Capital Fringe Festival: ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’
By Erin Williams
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Real estate can be a tough sell — and nowhere so tough as at Sunshine Realty in Chicago, where the men peddling lots at Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms are desperate to be the two sales agents who get to keep their jobs at week’s end.
The play opens at a Chinese restaurant near the office, where Shelley Levene, an agent once so high-powered he was called “The Machine” but now in a profound slump, is practically begging his baby-faced office manager for a chance at “the good leads.” At another table, two other agents, the fast-talking Dave Moss and a fumbling George Aaronow, bash their boss and start cooking up an office break-in in order to steal the best leads and sell them off. At a third table, the nearly poetic Richard Roma is preying on an innocent, the potential purchaser James Lingk, a man so timid he’s almost shivering.
There’s a lot of selling going on in David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Glengarry Glen Ross,” directed by Wayne Nicolosi and presented by Dead Cat Productions and Levelyn Productions. But ultimately it seems impossible for the embattled (and deceitful) agents to stick to the ABCs of the real estate business: Always Be Closing. The in-tough-times characters, all desperate to turn their luck around, could lose themselves in the dark plot of scheming and stealing to stay afloat, but there is enough comedic timing in each character that watching each salesman scuffle to claim what’s his is pleasant entertainment.
The outcome of the conversations in the restaurant is apparent the next day at the office, where a burglary has indeed occurred and the sales leads are gone. The rest of the play’s action has the salesmen bumping into one another — loudly, profanely, even savagely — as the burglary is investigated; Roma lies to keep the timid and now horrified purchaser in line; a reenergized Levene magically turns his luck around with eight new sales, and, eventually, the burglar accidentally reveals himself.
The play could be seen as something too serious, too gritty for such a fun, quirky festival as Capital Fringe, but this version is spot-on with the passion in each man’s eyes and the fire in their speech. One way or another, either over dumplings or in between interrogations, some kind of deal will be closed.