Glengarry Glen Ross

Tue 12th – Sat 16th June 2012

reviews

Ellen Smyth

at 10:12 on 14th Jun 2012

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Educated Guess Productions presents Glengarry Glen Ross: a play that is grittier, darker and more comical than I had expected from its tag line, ‘How far would you go to make a sale?’ I was pleasantly surprised to find that the flashy and cringe-worthy salespeople associated with the likes of ‘The Apprentice’ were left where they belong, in Alan Sugar's boardroom. Instead, the cast are satirical in their representation of a soul sucking rat race – each as desperate as the next to stay out of the firing line.

There is a fantastically strong cast. Each individual performance has contributed to capturing the world of business and how it often nurtures our most calculating and manipulative qualities. The lighting is well used in the opening scenes to focus on specific pairs of characters. Martin Whatley’s performance is carefully deliberated and peppered with incredulity so that his character, George, was particularly comical and enjoyable to watch. Craig Malpass draws attention with his expressive and energetic performance as the ultimate hoodwinker Richard Roma – who embodies all that is deceiving and smooth talking in the corporate image. My only reservation is that the opening dialogue between John Williamson (Patrick McAndrew) and Shelly Levene (Neil Bonnett) appeared underdeveloped and initially lost me as it was difficult to follow. Luckily their exchanges become far more engaging as the play proceeds - I especially enjoyed watching the power-play tactics evolve as they each gain a more steely edge. The second dialogue between George and intense Dave Moss (John Lomas) got the most laughs.

The transition between the two set designs isn’t exactly seamless. But The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’ makes for a welcome distraction whilst the ‘Restaurant/Bar’ staging is rearranged. And voilà: the stage is transformed into a hell-like ‘Office’ suitable for even the most devilish of sales contests. Besides, surely Jack White singing the words ‘Hounds of Hell’ is an extremely fitting introduction for any salesman?

This production is a glitteringly funny snapshot into the competitive lives of four refreshingly unglamorous, cut-throat salesmen. It is playing at the Alma Tavern & Theatre until Saturday 16th June: I recommend you catch it while you can.

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Chelsey Stuyt

at 10:39 on 14th Jun 2012

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What would you do to succeed? Pressure and desperation are at the core of David Mamet's award-winning 'Glengarry Glen Ross'. Beginning with the triptych scene in a Chinese restaurant, the story revolves around a group of desperate salesmen in a Chicago real estate agency. Shelly Levene (Neil Bonnett) tries unsuccessfully to stack the odds in his faltering favour by bribing office manager John Williamson (an elegantly unsympathetic Patrick McAndrew) to give him the top 'leads'. George Aaronow (Martin Whatley) and Dave Moss (John Lomas) discuss ways to beat the system, with Moss ending the argument with a resounding “you're an accomplice because you listened” that rings out into the audience as the lights go out. Finally, Richard Roma (Craig Malpass) waxes poetically about the adventurous life to the wonderfully timid James Lingk (Rick Procter). This triptych sets the stage for our characters to collide in the intense second act.

Staging in the Alma Tavern is always tricky, but Educated Guess made good use of the space. Act one's left to right narrative spotlighting worked well as a developmental device, and the choice to have Moss storm off into the audience during Act two gave his final “fuck all of you” a nice double meaning. But I wasn't sure why they chose to make the audience enter through the stage door and not the regular back entrance. This created an awkward moment when a surprised latecomer stumbled into the background of Levene's monologue.

The most remarkable thing about David Mamet's 'Glengarry Glen Ross' is that it creates an intensity that is never given a real resolution. This pressure comes from the characters not from the plot, and so the ability of the cast to build and maintain that intensity is crucial to the success of the show. Craig Malpass and John Lomas pull it off effortlessly. Lomas' aggressively scheming Dave Moss first appears to be at odds with Malpass' slick and subtle Richard Roma. But as the stakes are raised, Roma spirals into the same raving behaviour he derided in Moss. The scene where the pair finally clash is electric, if brief.

The only complaint I had about the show was an issue of accents. While some were seamless (Craig Malpass, in particular), others missed the mark by just enough to be distracting. It's all in the vowels and Neil Bonnett's felt a little too bright for the nasal Chicago style he was gunning for. This distraction cracked the illusion for me. But that's a minor complaint.

A truly magnetic show.

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