Glengarry Glen Ross: Real Estate Agents Get Real at the ’92
This weekend, David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” went up in the ’92, a play that captures the cutthroat and patriarchal world of real estate. The play tells the story of four real estate agents working in a highly competitive office, where failure means unemployment and success means a brand new Cadillac.
Director Richard Starzec ’14 gives the play a new dynamic with a female addition to a usually all-male cast, as Sivan Battat ’15 plays the role of John Williamson. Starzec wanted to cast the role as a woman and originally wanted to switch her character’s name to Joan, but due to complications with the rights of the play, the name was not able to be switched. Starzec was pleased with Battat’s effect on the dynamic of the play.
“The world of the play is crude and sadistic, so the energy of having an actress perform on stage changes the scheme of things,” said Starzec.
The highlight of this energy switch was in the second act. Ricky Roma, performed by Peter Cramer ’14 , berates Williamson for ruining a deal. The vulgarities Mamet uses in this monologue, as well as Roma’s questioning Williamson if he could do “the work of men,” becomes more cringe-worthy due to the fact that Starzec had made that character female.
Although Glengarry is filled with crude shouts and lewd statements, the play includes a great deal of comic relief. Solomon Billinkoff ’14 kept the audience roaring with his portrayal of washed out agent George Aaronow. His nervous tics, as well as his attempts to finish others’ sentences and keep up with the fast-paced environment, broke up the tension among the rest of the characters.
The rapid-fire discourse that made up the great majority of the play was emblematic of that tension. With this, the great deal of time the actors must have spent perfecting their diction shone through, making sure that none of their words were lost in the convoluted dialogue. However, even with the clear delivery of the text, there were still moments in which ambiguities should have been clarified. It was not until the end of the first act that I fully understood the necessary vocabulary of the show, such as what the terms “leads” and “getting on the board” meant. Whether this was due to the writing of the play or a slight failure of the actors to make these terms clear, I couldn’t say. Another ambiguity that could have been clarified was the role played by Sophomore Will Dubbs’ of the police officer, Baylen. A simple badge would have made his character more clear upon his entrance.
Despite a few unclear details at the beginning of the show, the effect of “the board” on each character was completely understood. Lighting designer Rachel Leicher ’15 aided in this clarity of presentation, helping create a powerful visual. The second act began with a spotlight on the blackboard in the office with all of the names of the agents and their earnings. The spotlight made it seem as if the board was an altar in the religion of real estate. The second act ends with the same visual, except this time, Aaronow is sitting in front of it with his eyes closed and his hands cupped together. Although he is obviously distressed, it looked as though he was praying for salvation.
The cast and crew of Glengarry successfully conquered a dense script and added their own insights to make this a unique Wesleyan production. This past weekend, the ’92 was transformed into a high-tension business world, and more important than closing night was the importance of “always closing.”