THE BASICS: GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, David Mamet’s hard-hitting 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning drama about real estate salesmen, directed by Scott Behrend, starring David C. Mitchell, Matt Witten, Dave Hayes, Steve Brachmann, David Marciniak, Patrick Moltane, and Michael Dugan (with an uncredited cameo by Anthony Alcocer) runs through November 19, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 at Road Less Traveled Theater, 500 Pearl Street near Tupper (629-3069). www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org Soda, beer, and wine in the spacious lounge. Runtime: 1 hour, forty-five minutes with one ten-minute intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: A group of real-estate salesmen in this all-male play is dealing with the usual problems of selling, but their troubles are compounded by a recent break-in at the office. Phones, files, and the valuable “Glengarry leads” (lists of prospective buyers) have been taken; there is an active police investigation underway, and the normal stresses of the job are elevated to the snapping point.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: When Europeans populated America, they had two interests: some sought religious freedom, some sought economic opportunity, and the excesses of both are rich veins for American authors, including David Mamet.
This Road Less Traveled Production is a little different from most in that, when the lights first dim, we are presented with a carefully detailed stage recreation (right down to the rain SFX) of Alec Baldwin’s famous “Coffee is for closers” speech from the 1992 movie (also scripted by David Mamet).
Then the theater lights come back up, we hear the standard announcement to silence our cell phones, and the actual 1984 drama, as written, begins. Since it’s not technically part of the play, the scene is uncredited, and the actor does not appear again, even at the curtain call, but fans of Buffalo favorite, Artie Award winning Anthony Alcocer, will want to know that he got this plum assignment.
Set in 1980s Chicago, Act I takes place in a Chinese restaurant, where over a series of scenes we meet the principles, including two actors of great depth – Matt Witten as the smooth talking salesman Richard Roma and David C. Mitchell as the now struggling Shelly Levene, whose nickname was “The Machine” for his former ability to close multiple sales deals in a single day.
As much as I admire actors Witten and Mitchell (and the entire rest of the cast for that matter), Act I dragged and seemed awfully “wordy.” Yes, I know that a universal truth of theater is that first acts, because they must set things up, are never as “good” as second acts. Yet I think that a problem of this production’s Act I may have been putting the Chinese restaurant inside the office set. The actors seemed cramped and since they were a bit upstage the scenes lacked some of the immediacy that has made Road Less Traveled restaurant scenes usually a very intimate “eavesdropping” experience.
Consequently, at the end of the restaurant scenes, the relationship between the Richard Roma character and his “mark,” James Lingk, played by Dave Hayes, was not entirely clear. Similarly, we see that “The Machine” is down on his luck, but we don’t feel the sickening desperation that we must feel to set up Act II.
There’s a lot of angry testosterone on that small stage.
While I had my problems with this production, if you’ve never seen this play live you should go. As mentioned, director Scott Behrend has assembled some of the finest talent in Buffalo.
And all, and I do mean all of the “behind the scenes” production team lived up to their usual RLTP high standards: Production Stage Manager Sam Crystal kept things moving with no awkward moments, Set Design by Dyan Burlingame (with the exception of squeezing the restaurant into the office) had both realistically shabby and wonderfully authentic for the time and place (where did she find that old office furniture?), Sound Design by Katie Menke was effective, Costume Design/Props Master Maura Simmonds-Price also nailed it, Lighting Design by John Rickus was believable and effective, and additional kudos go to Production Manager Hasheen DeBerry and Technical Director Lou Iannone, with the help of Assistants Sarah Foote and Bethany Kasperek.
Lead image: David Marciniak, Matt Witten, Patrick Moltane
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!