Monday, 26 August 2013 13:29

Glengarry Glen Ross: A Perfect Storm

Written by  Allison Parker
Rate this item
(1 Vote)


Glengarry Glen Ross

West Michigan University Theatre
Zack L. York Arena Theatre, Kalamazoo
Sept. 26-28, Oct. 3-6; show times at 8 and 2 p.m.
$10-20 (WMU students $5)
wmich.edu/theatre, (269) 387-6222

 

In Glengarry Glen Ross, the letters 'ABC' aren't Big Bird's pals or the cheesy accessories of choice on Teacher Appreciation Day. That's because in this dark psychological thriller, 'ABC' stands for 'Always Be Closing,' and if you're not closing a deal, then someone's closing you.

Kicking off West Michigan University Theatre's season, Glengarry Glen Ross tells the story of four fiercely competitive salesmen in a floundering real-estate agency. For these Chicago backstabbers, no measure is too extreme in the ruthless pursuit of a sealed deal. When the company announces a high-stakes sales competition, desperation soars to an unprecedented fever pitch. The top seller walks away with a Cadillac, the bottom two with a pink slip.

Ramping up the raw intensity of this storyline, the WMU version of Glengarry Glen Ross features several distinctive touches. Most notably, the play adds the character Blake, who delivers the iconic 'Always Be Closing' speech. Although Blake never appeared in the original Glengarry Glen Ross, the play's writer David Mamet added the character in the 1992 screenplay. Memorably portrayed by Alec Baldwin in the film, Blake has become an embodiment of the story's harsh, cut-throat reality.

"[Blake's] character adds to the tension in a powerful, dramatic way," Director D. Terry Williams said. "It was so clever of Mamet to add that character, and I'm so thrilled that he did. It's a wonderful scene [Blake] is in. He lays down the law and announces the contest that really sets the tone of the play. The results of his pronouncement and threat add to the panic and desperation. [The salesmen] are now no longer colleagues but competitors."

Another plus of this production is the way in which its venue enhances the audience's experience. A black box space no stranger to psychological dramas, the Zack L. York Arena theatre seats only 115 patrons and provides an intensely intimate feel.

"When you're in the Black Box Theatre, you are in the office with [the characters]" Williams said. "Those desks are only a couple of feet from the first row and there are only four rows. If you are in the back row, you're only six feet from the action, so physically you are going to be psychologically engaged whether you want to be or not in a way you won't be in a movie theatre ... I hope the audience will leave with mental exhaustion."

While savage brutality dominates, glimmers of satirical wit and dark humor release tension without diluting the play's forcefulness. The second-place prize in the sales competition is a set of steak knives, for example. Touches like this allow the play to evoke and engage a wide range of emotions.

"When the tension is almost unbearable, there'll be a laugh. Also, a playwright can release tension with shock, and there are a lot of those moments in the play," Williams said. "It's a perfect storm; that's a really good metaphor for this play because it gets pretty stormy with relationships and competition."


Other Performing Arts Events

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Circle Theatre, Grand Rapids
Sept. 5-7, 11-15, 18-21; show times at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
$25-27
circletheatre.org, (616) 456-6656

Unapologetically visceral and raw, Sweeney Todd is a macabre tale of one man's unquenchable thirst for justice. When Judge Turpin exiles Benjamin Barker in order to rape his wife, Benjamin vows revenge. After boiling for 15 years in his own fury, the wronged husband returns to London, consumed by bloodlust. Benjamin promptly sets up an unusual and horrifying barbershop—one in which he gives the closest shaves possible. It's no coincidence that the pies in the shop below contain mystery meat. Eventually, Judge Turpin does end up in the barber chair, but a heartbreaking twist changes everything.

Les Misérables
Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
Sept. 27-28, Oct. 3-6, 11-13; show times at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
$12-23
kazoocivic.com, (269)343-1313

One of the world's most beloved musicals, Les Misérables is a triumphant celebration of redemption set in France's 1832 June Rebellion. The age-old tension between justice and mercy takes center stage as Inspector Javert relentlessly pursues ex-convict Jean Valjean. When political turmoil boils and Valjean's daughter becomes involved with a fiery revolutionary, Valjean finds himself battling for his country, his daughter's lover and his own hide. The show's hushed, tender melodies and spirited, bombastic fanfares provide the Broadway songbook with unforgettable classics.

Login to post comments

© 2018 Revue and Revue Holding Company

Join Our Newsletter!

Event Calendar

Breaking News

readthisissue 11.18