Glengarry Glen Ross (Flying Penguin Productions in association with Brink Productions)
The fragile table of the Chinese restaurant wobbles under the desperate pleas of a man who nurses a scotch, begging for another chance. The sauce is soy, the Susan is lazy, and the noodles are bound to leave us hungry in about an hour. Negotiations are attempted, ideas hatch and jokes are cut, quick and witty. Lighting designer Tom Kitney impeccably paints this vermilion scene, but the interactions do not bode well for good fortune or joy. If a fortune cookie were cracked to project into the future, the message would not announce the imminent arrival of the blue bird of happiness. The configuration is perfect; trouble is coming.
This intimate lunch table in the American Midwest is the alternative boardroom of the 1980s, where deals are made and futures are made and lost. The award-winning classic from playwright David Mamet puts the scam into the con artist, but it’s the desperation of competing crooks with their underlying layers of greed and fear that propels this gem.
Director David Mealor directs the magnificent cast of this production (directed by Flying Penguin Productions in association with Brink Productions), creating countless moments of shadow and light, which are masterfully harnessed by the tight ensemble. Various extremes of American accents are cohesive and compelling; particularly impressive for the often explosive rhetoric. The timing, tension, delivery, and drama are universally exceptional throughout the set.
Rory Walker as Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levene and Bill Allert as Real Estate Manager John Williamson Shine. They are the first to face each other, and the brawl of tense, unevenly-paired characters deftly highlights the power imbalance at the heart of their working arrangement.
Christopher Pitman brings unparalleled energy to bullish and corrupt real estate agent Dave Moss. Nicholas Garsden is his wobbly and sad foil George Aaronow. The second scene’s “talk of Mamet” is as deliciously good as it gets. Moss’s later tirade and his release in Wisconsin are sheer genius, and Aaronow’s juxtaposed pitiful resignation to his fate at the end, are the highlights of this precisely executed production.
Mark Saturno as Richard Roma is terribly convincing. The straight-haired, pointed-suit salesman is a man of words whose world revolves around himself and his ability to navigate his way through business. James Wardlaw plays James Lingk, whose palpable shyness changes from endearing to pitiful. The Gimlet scene is notable for bringing humor to deception.
Chris Asimos as Police Detective Baylen completes the cast with his menacing stage presence, cementing the bastardiness of his behind-the-scenes interrogation techniques.
We are kicked out of the Chinese restaurant in the second act. Actors representing the former Presidents of the United States effectively transform the exceptional staging of decorator and costume designer Kathryn Sproul into a spacious real estate office, their bulbous masks creating an ideal and intriguing diversion. This nod to Point Break’s theft scene is another powerful omen that someone is about to be robbed. The attention to detail with the costumes is striking, with diamond cygnet rings, crooked ties and cashmere coats all lending believable nods to the era.
Composer and sound designer Quentin Grant’s charleston and sizzling choruses add cinematic intrigue and skillfully aid the build story. The “ta-da” moment is perfectly timed, culminating in the height of the dramatic tension.
Discordant racist and misogynistic language delivered with the hate-fueled invective of what we wished to be a bygone era, comes up against uncomfortable voids that cannot be sufficiently filled by debates over historical context or character flaws. . Withdrawn from certain covers by Mamet himself, the choice to adhere to the original screenplay is a daring one. In the end, our hopes for this story to be anachronistic are almost dead. The genius of the script and of this incarnation is its exposition of the human cost of the failures of capitalism; too modern a reality.
This tight and tense roller coaster treat from a production of Glengarry Glen Ross is small theater at its best.
Glengarry Glen Ross plays at the Bakehouse Theater until September 25