Encore Michigan

Monster Box makes the sale with ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’

Review March 24, 2019 David Kiley

WATERFORD, TWP.–When David Mamet wrote Glengarry Glen Ross in the 1980s (it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984), he wanted to capture the language and lives of salesmen–mostly desperate men who hated their jobs, would do anything to make a sale, but who once in a while would make a sale so delicious that they would re-tell the yarn blow-by-blow like it was their own personal Super Bowl.

One wonders how Mamet would write it today, giving the salespeople the tool of the Internet. Nevertheless, the play still holds up quite well and is in production at Monster Box Theatre.

The story is an ensemble piece, though Shelley ‘The Machine” Levene (Mike Olsem) is a bit more at the center of the action and garners the most stage time. Shelly’s best sales days are behind him. He has a daughter in the hospital. He is an edgier version of Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman, and with a much more obscenity-laced vocabulary. These salesmen use the f-word as punctuation.

The title comes from two real estate developments mentioned in the play. Glengarry Highlands is the prime real estate everyone is attempting to sell now; Glen Ross Farms is mentioned by several characters as having been very lucrative for those selling it several years ago.

Ricky Roma (Ben Feliciano) is the slickest of the salesmen and the most successful. He has by far the most property units sold, as is evidenced on the board up on the wall in the real estate office. The owners of the agency are dangling a new Cadillac as an dded incentive–the most revenue booked for the month wins.

Dave Moss (Alan Madlane) and George Aaranow (Jim Moll) are teamed up as the bottom feeders, guys selling just enough to keep their heads above water. One comes up with a half-baked scheme to steal the most valuable sales leads–a list of fresh prospects for them to call on. There is considerable belly-aching about having only the old, played-out leads to work from.

The punching bag for the salesmen is John Williamson, the office manager, played by Matthew Jarjosa. Williamson is pretty much fed up with all of them except for Roma who is still a top producer. There are no friendships here. All of their interactions are transactional in the moment. This is the reality that makes Mamet’s dialogue crackle and drive the story.  If the story was set today, they’d all be using Snapchat where the texts and pictures get deleted after they are seen.

Olsem’s Levene is quite good. He nails the essence of Levene, who we know is no better than the rest of them, but he gets us to feel sorry for him because we know he has a daughter in the hospital with something complicated, and we also can see that he is an old man who is probably days away from doing something drastic to escape his sorry existence. He is as played out as the old leads they talk about–deadbeats or nutty people who just like to talk to salesmen but who don’t have the money to buy.

A lesser, but important role in the story is that of JamesLingk, the only buyer we get to meet. He is Roma’s mark, and played well by John DeMerrell. He is married, with a wife who dominates him, and he is the perfect customer, the type that glows green to guys like Roma.

With so many new plays experimenting with new formats and structures, Mamet’s Glengarry is a reminder that time-tested dramatic structures are time-tested for a reason. They work. The dialogue is the star, but these actors, directed by Paul Stark, do a terrific job of delivering it. The play runs through March 31st. Stong language is advised, so not for patrons under the age of 16.

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