Glengarry Glen Ross – Round House Theatre

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I’ve seem to hit a run of good theater this month and the streak continued with David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross”, playing at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda.  Like any Mamet play the success is laid upon the shoulders of the performers hitting their spots in the verbal back and forth that carries the show.  From the opening scene you had a good feeling that this cast was up to the task.  The show starts with Rick Fouchex as the past his prime real estate agent Shelly Levene pleading with his office manager for some good leads in order to get back in the game and right the ship of his sagging career over lunch at a chinese restaurant.  Fouchex handles the dialogue expertly as he strives to convince Kenyatta Rogers, as Williamson the office manager, to give him those opportunities.  Carrying on a largely one-sided conversation that waivers between a man looking to salvage the end of his career and insulting the man who could help save him.  The show keeps rolling from there as we join a second conversation in the restaurant between Dave Moss (Jeff Allin) and George Aaronow (Conrad Feininger), where Moss attempts to convince his less successful and weaker minded coworker Aaronow into robbing their office and selling the real estate leads to a competitor.  The last conversation we sit in on at the restaurant involves the classic character of Richard Roma (Alexander Strain) telling tales of the living life in the fast lane with a more demur lunch companion (Jesse Terrill).   A remain vague, because the punch line of the conversation is a truly funny moment.

This ostensibly is the end of Act I and we move onto Act II, which takes place in the real estate offices of Glengarry Glen Ross.  However, there is no intermission and the set designers built a clever way of changing the sets from the Chinese restaurant to an early 80s run down real estate office.  The outer portion of the set is on a turntable that revolves counterclockwise and the inner portion of the restaurant, the three booths, rotate on a second turntable clockwise to reveal the office.  It was an impressive set change that was a pleasant surprise and even elicited applause from some in attendance.

The second act takes place after a break in at the real estate office that has resulted in all the leads having been stolen, and curiously all the phones too.  A police officer (Stephen Patrick Martin) is at the office and questioning all of the real estate agents about the break-in off stage.  While onstage we see Shelly Levene reveling in a successful sale he has made, Richard Roma trying to save a sale and the characters dealing with the fallout from the break-in and the apparent difficult questioning by the police officer.  The show runs a total of 75 to 80 minutes without a single lapse in the cadence and flow of the show, even when one of the chairs on stage lost one of its wheels and was fixed by Mr. Fouchex as he was delivering his lines. 

Many reviews of this performance reference the recent revival on Broadway that starred Al Pacino and the poor reviews it received.  I didn’t have the opportunity to see that production, but I did see the Broadway revival of the show in 2005.  That production won the Tony Award for best revival of a play and Liev Schriber won the Tony for best actor in a play while running against his cast mates of Gordon Clapp who played Moss and Alan Alda who played Shelly Levene.  The remainder of that cast included Jeffrey Tambor, Tom Wopat, Frederick Weller, and Jordan Lage.  It was a star-studded production that deserved all the praise it received and this production is earning all the praise it will certainly receive, especially for Fouchex and Strain as Levene and Roma.

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