Every year at this point in its season, Lakewood Playhouse takes a chance on a less-than-mainstream show, knowing that while ticket sales will likely be less than those of their more tried-and-true shows, gutsy and more controversial shows deserve an airing.
Their “outside the box” show for this season is David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” winner of a Pulitzer Prize and Tony and Olivier awards, and controversial primarily for its liberal use of adult language.
Four ruthless and desperate real estate agents in the office of Mitch & Murray are locked in a no-holds-barred battle to be top dog, each trying every sleazy trick imaginable to sell worthless plots of land while an office manager they despise (Kyle Sinclair) holds valuable leads for only the top closers, and a home office representative (Mike Slease) berates them so vehemently, he puts the most vicious of drill sergeants to shame. Two of the agents conspire to break in and steal confidential files from the office and sell them to a rival agency, and a police detective (Dave Hall) is called in to investigate.
Much of the first act is taken up with exposition. In three scenes, we see first the hatchet man from the main office challenging the salesmen and telling them how worthless they are; two of the salesmen, Moss (Alan Wilkie) and Aaronow (James Winkler), then plot to steal from the office; and finally the top dog, Roma (W. Scott Pinkston), cajoles a rather wimpy James Lingk (Frank Roberts) into buying land he neither wants nor needs nor can afford. This first act is filled with anger and bleakness.
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Then in the second act, everything boils over and a lot of lusty humor is injected into the otherwise depressing story.
Lakewood Playhouse’s in-the-round stage configuration is ideal for this production. The desks in Mitch & Murray fill the floor and the audience is up close and drawn into the action. John Munn’s direction and the acting of the entire ensemble cast are outstanding. You forget these actors are playing parts as they become the cutthroat characters they portray. How can anyone watch this without simultaneously hating and admiring Roma, and feeling the deep sadness in Joseph Grant as Levene? Grant, a veteran of many shows at Lakewood Playhouse, turns in one of his best performances as the former top dog and now sadly out of touch with modern sales methods.
Two of the actors, Hall and Pinkston, retired from acting years ago, and this is a comeback performance for each. Their acting abilities seem to have ripened throughout those years. Pinkston’s wide range of expression is truly impressive, and Hall, who says very little, is nevertheless convincing as the police detective.
Slease is also a well-known and popular Tacoma area actor. He plays the man from the home office with bravado. His tirade in act one is cringe-worthy.
Winkler is also a Playhouse veteran who has been away for a decade, last appearing on this stage in “The Guys” in 2004. We’re told in the program that he studied under the great Stella Adler in Hollywood and New York, and that experience shows in his portrayal of Aaronow.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” is not an easy show to watch. It is anything but a feel-good show. Anyone who is easily offended by tough adult language should avoid it. But for people who appreciate taut drama and great acting, this is the show to see.