Closing! Fuck! Leads! Shit! Closing! Closing! Curse again!
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Mitchell Nobel’s ’13 version of David Mamet’s Pulitzer prize-winning “Glenglarry Glen Ross” is, at most, cute.
Nobel’s rendition of the 1982 dark comedy about minor-league, cutthroat real estate salesmen succeeds at exposing the layers of meaning Mamet created through the use of simple, carefully schemed, mundane language.
That is, you won’t leave the Pierson-Davenport Auditorium thinking that any of the times Shelley Levene (Alexander Klein ’12) or Richard Roma (Michael Knowles ’12) said “fuck” were unnecessary.
But the script — widely known for being half expletives, half real estate talk — only half gets across through the rest of the cast.
The first, 45-minute-long act is a progression of confrontations between two characters. These interactions, however, feel more like a series of monologues due to the contrasting levels of dramatic talent on stage.
Shelley and his boss, John Williamson (Ben Silver ’13), open the play in a rabid altercation that exudes passion on Klein’s side, and transpires “meh” on Silver’s.
(Also: Klein’s hair. Somebody did a good job with Klein’s hair.)
Shelley, the protagonist, is a troubled real estate agent for the firm Murray & Mitch whose time has passed. Desperate, he yells at his boss to get a better “lead” (read: a potential buyer). Williamson, head of the office, is a much younger man who acquired his position through family connections.
Despite Shelley’s familial responsibilities, Williamson won’t give him a better lead — one that is more likely to close a deal.
These real estate agents live in eternal competition for their salaries: those who sell the most by the end of the week (always be closing!) receive a bonus Cadillac, while those who in last place are denied the best leads. Nobel conveys Mamet’s corrupt, merciless entreprenurial game accurately.
The story truly begins when Blake (Michelle Taylor ’13), a coldblooded emissary from Murray & Mitch headquarters, enters the stage in the second scene.
I was not expecting the play to include Blake, a character who was added in the 1992 movie version of “Glengarry,” directed by James Foley, but not found in the original dramatis personae. Perhaps Nobel decided to keep this character because Alec Baldwin’s incarnation is largely what made the film memorable.
The director also made the executive decision of switching Blake’s gender to female.
In a mélange of all profanities known to man, the pencil-skirted, pony-tailed shark announces the ultimate Deathmatch — a challenge that triggers the cascade of events that gives rise to the story: a Cadillac is the first prize for the week’s best salesman; a set of steak knives is the second.
“The third prize?” Blake says, “You’re fired.”
Unfortunately, a scene that begins with surprise ends with disappointment — female Blake has potential, but Taylor does not intimidate.
The second and final act unfolds a secondary plot, which adds a detectivesque component to the play.
The office is a mess: someone has stolen the leads. A (bland) policeman (Erik Santoro ’12) is introduced; the investigation begins.
At this point, I just want to see more Knowles.
Hands down, the most compelling scene of the play is at once the most frustrating one. Roma, another salesman, needs to make one last sell if he wants that Cadillac, but his lead is pulling out.
Mitchel Kawash ’12, who is probably playing himself, does a terrific job as the awkward, submissive husband James Lingk.
The Roma-Lingk interaction made me squirm in my chair. It was engaging to an empathy-inducing degree — Roma’s ruthless tactics and Lingk’s deep nervousness seemed almost genuine.
“Glengarry” is one of those — if you saw the movie, you will want to see the play. Unfortunately, if you go see the play, you won’t want to watch the movie.
If you have 100 minutes to spare, “Glengarry Glen Ross” rents for $2.99 at the iTunes Store.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” runs through Sunday at the Pierson-Davenport Auditorium.