Theatre Review: Glengarry Glen Ross

Does a fuck a minute a great play make?

Maybe not, but that didn't stop David Mamet from cramming a near 150 "fuck"s, and variations thereof, into the roughly 100-minute runtime of Glengarry Glen Ross. The 1984 Pulitzer winner is a brilliant examination of modern day soul-rape by capitalism. In Glengarry, Mamet explores Corporate America's iron grip on our collective soul, side effects of which include bribery, blackmail and burglary, to name a few.

As for all the fucks? "Gratuitous profanity!" cry some. Easy there, Emily Post. Delve beyond Miss Manners' initial knee-jerk, and ponder Mamet's commentary on moral depravity today. An indication of our ethical deterioration is our own pilfering of language, consistently reduced to the savage hollowness embodied by the word "fuck". Degenerate noun, convenient adjective, perfect verb, meaningless adverb, startling interjection, damn fine infix, and telling sign of our wanton minds.

Glengarry Glen Ross is the expletive-laden tale of four conniving, money-hungry real estate agents that will stop at nothing to make the sale. It has the potential to be great. Even really fucking great, if you will. But Obstructed View's recent stab, while a sincere effort, ultimately falls short of its potential. Director Mitchell Cushman's rendition lacks depth of characterization. Granted, there are a few noteworthy performances--Jonathan Grosz as Shelley Levene and Andrew Morris as Richard Roma come to mind--but, by and large, the actors are underwhelming.

Anthony Cushman's attempt at the deviant, past-his-prime salesman Dave Moss is monotonic. With his dial tuned in to raging anger and nothing else, Cushman thrashes his way through lines, with no regard for pace. Daniel Rosen makes a similar mistake with his much-too-harebrained George Aaronow. Rosen confuses his character's resigned manner for idiocy and, hence, his version of Aaronow as a hyper-fearful, daft-as-bricks dolt fails to do the character justice. Aaron Feldman is similarly unconvincing in his portrayal of Roma's client James Lingk, focusing solely on conveying fear-fear-fear, and that alone, in all his lines and actions.

Many of the young cast--Obstructed View's mandate includes a conscious decision to cast against age--fall victim to the same trap: they choose the single most obvious, glaring element of their character's personality and then amplify and overplay it until that one trait is all that is visible. The subtleties and nuances that make a character truly great are then lost, as the actors channel and project solitary attributes. The cutthroat environment Mamet penned is softened in this offering, and thus his key messages become diluted.

Yet there were some exceptional performances as well. Grosz delivers a solid Levene--from a man on the cusp of ruin to riding the high of Success and back again, he is excellent. Grosz's solid grasp of his everyman-gone-wrong character yields a Levene that we find simultaneously repulsive and pitiful, not an easy feat.

It is Andrew Morris, however, that steals the show. His Richard Roma is, in short, perfect. He crafts an expert concoction of exacting charm, purposeful sleaze and charismatic deviance. All eyes are on Morris when he is onstage, and for good reason: he nails the charismatic, calculating crook to a T.

Although this production is a tad rough around the edges, and Cushman's young cast still has a thing or two to learn, Mamet's messages manage to come through loud and clear in this local offering.

I guess it's pretty hard not to sit up and take note when the characters are yelling "fuckin fuckity fuck fuck" eh?


What: Glengarry Glen Ross
When: Two shows left - Saturday, August 26, 1:30pm and 8:30pm
Where: Young Centre (55 Mill Street, Building 49)
Cost: $20 regular, $12 students
For tickets: 416.866.8666

[pictured: Andrew Morris as Richard Roma in Obstructed View's Glengarry Glen Ross.]

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