In the world of "Glengarry Glen Ross," if you aren't a winner, you're a loser. A bleeping, bleeping loser.
And you're fired.
Sound familiar? When writer David Mamet debuted this tough play back in 1983, it was shocking for its relentless profanity and disturbing for its unfiltered vision of the dark, abusive side of American business.
Not anymore. Mamet could have written this play yesterday -- something that was not lost on Road Less Traveled Productions artistic and executive director Scott Behrend, who knew what he was doing when he put the Pulitzer Prize-winning show on his 2017-18 calendar.
The difference is that, in what passes for real life today, the in-your-face insults and F-you aggression are right out in public rather than in the confined within the walls of a failing real estate office.
Real estate. What a business. RLTP’s show opens with one of the most scathing monologues in theater, a blistering take-down -- in the movie, delivered by Alec Baldwin to the salesmen but in this production aimed directly at the audience.
This unnamed corporate assassin comes out before we are even asked to turn off our cell phones and begins spewing threats and vulgar take-downs. It puts us immediately in the chairs of the beleagured salesmen we have yet to meet, shredded and dumped out and then told to put ourselves together or else.
The gist is that we are embarking on a cut-throat sales competition involving acreage in the two properties of the title, with the winner getting a Cadillac, a set of cheap steak knives for second place, and, as for everyone else, “You’re fired.”
The opening is brutal and effective. So brutal and effective, that we’ll warn ticketholders that front row seating is not for the squeamish.
Then it's on with the show, with dialogue among the most adversarial in theater presented like a well-practiced ballet, its aggrieved anger perfectly balanced with bizarrely black comedic accents.
The opening act shows the out-of-office intrigue that sets up Mamet’s ruthless Act II. We meet the sales staff in one-on-one meetings in a cheesy restaurant (which cleverly emerges from the heart of the office in Dyan Burlingame’s uncluttered design), and get a feel for where how they're responding to the Caddy or career death sales challenge.
No one is inspired. There is no art to the desperate deals they are making. The options on the tables are lying, cheating, bribery and theft.
David C. Mitchell, who in my experience is incapable of a bad performance, plays Shelly “The Machine” Levene, the only character owning anything that could be mistaken for a heart. Once an office star, he has faded to a hapless also-ran, and Mitchell does an incredible job carrying him through the depths of his despair.
Matt Witten is the swaggering Richard Roma, ferociously foul-mouthed and self-serving in a bitingly entertaining way. He owns one of the show’s most memorable scenes, taking out a colleague for undermining his efforts to cheat a client, serving up his insults with frightening pleasure.
Patrick Moltane becomes the angry and devious Dave Moss with defensive defiance, and David Marciniak serves as Mamet’s Everyman character, the guy who hates his job, hates his life, and hates that he doesn't know what to do about it.
Steve Brachmann as the office manager has the thankless task of trying to get the sales staff to toe the line under a barrage of abuse, right up until he takes his sour revenge, and Dave Hayes as a panicking customer and John Kreuzer as a skeptical detective round out the cast.
The opening show had no hitches, and it was clear the actors had embraced Mamet’s material. Act I, a series of expository table-talk scenes, was a tough sell, may have left us hesitant to sign on the dotted line, but Act II sealed the deal.
The "feel-good" show of the season? No way. But it would be hard to find a more viscerally engaging show, and you are --- guaranteed -- going to feel something.
"Glengarry Glen Ross"
Dynamic production of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning evisceration of the winner-take-all side of American business. Presented by Road Less Traveled Productions in its theater at 500 Pearl St., through Nov. 19. Tickets, roadlesstraveledproductions.org.