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Stellar cast nails polished Glengarry Glen Ross
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Stellar cast nails polished Glengarry Glen Ross

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Glengarry Glen Ross
Seattle Repertory
Theatre
Through February 28


A stellar cast gives a standout performance of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. Whether you like Mamet's tough-talking, foul-mouthed characters or not, this is an opportunity to have your mind changed or to reinforce your conclusions.

For real estate salesmen in the Chicago area, everything in life boils down to "the deal." In fact, "the deal" includes whole life philosophies and lessons in it, giving the impression that philosophies about life are just "deals" we make with ourselves.

We know from growing up with commercial television that advertising-speak permeates every aspect of our lives. Glengarry Glen Ross exemplifies what has been codified into our consumer society since the mid '50s. The play was written in the '80s, yet there is almost nothing to distinguish the play from 2010 except phone technology.

These are the guys that sell your dreams to you with soulful looks, patience, and a scientific understanding of human behavior that has yet to be debunked. Put to the highest use, these sales techniques can enhance our lives. The salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross are the ones that sell the swampland in Florida, the you-can't-lose real estate investments in now-bankrupt new condo developments, and the Ponzi investments.

Mamet delivers them to you with masterful - if sometimes vulgar - language. The basic plot has to do with leads, the tantalizing possibilities of real sales opportunities that are parceled out due to perceived sales value and get older and more useless the farther down the food chain you are in sales. Dave Moss (a riveting Charles Leggett) twists sales technology into convincing poor George (Russell Hodgkinson) that he's damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't just because he's listened to Dave's plan to burgle the leads from their office and move to the competition with them. Down-in-the-mouth Shelly Levene (a pitch-perfect John Aylward) tries to finagle better leads from office manager John (MJ Sieber) using any backroom dealing he can think of. Richard Roma (a scintillating R. Hamilton Wright) mesmerizes hapless James (Ian Bell) into making the investment of his life, which of course James can't truly afford.

A scene where James tries to undo his deal with Richard and Richard tries to scam him into delay with the help of Shelly, who poses as a rich executive to help Richard out, is the classic con. "I'm trying to help you," Richard claims over and over. "I'm thinking of you." Of course, he's doing nothing of the sort. This is the sort of twisting of truth that has helped our society become coarse and untrusting, afraid that the con is coming any minute toward us. We have to guard ourselves all the time, don't we?

Assisted by a police investigator played by Shawn Belyea, the production sets you up to think you know who stole the leads, and twists that up, too. The beautiful double set of restaurant and hole-in-the-wall office boiler room was created by set designer Eugene Lee. Lighting by Geoff Korf and sound by Matt Starritt complete the effects. The pacing and drive of director Wilson Milam is polished and clear with great moments of punch. The one quibble would be with the missing Chicago accents.

As you might have done at ACT with The Women, go watch some of the main men of Seattle theater romp on stage. For more information, go to www.seattlerep.org or call 206-443-2222.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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