Friday, February 8, 2013

Glengarry Glen Ross still in the game

by Jenni Morin

In a society where knowing incriminates and decades-old lies haunt executives and celebrities, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross remains relevant. The Vexler Theatre’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross, now showing through March 3, is a refreshing well-staged reminder of the issues that plague the American working class.

Although the themes of the play are still current, without director Dylan Brainard’s choice to cast women in this male-dominated show, The Vex’s production would have just been another play. Changing up the gender of the actors used may not have changed the gender tendencies of the characters, but certainly made it more poignant, adding another layer to the already theme-laden script. Belinda Harolds as Moss held her own amongst the men, as did Martha Prentiss as Baylen, the cop. If Harolds did nothing in her portrayal of Moss, she proved that women can handle a man’s role and she did it with the swagger of masculine bravado. She practiced manipulation devoid of the expected feminine wiles. Only showing her feminine side once when giving into emotional desperation was an important choice that assured audiences she hadn’t completely lost touch with her femininity.

The juxtaposition of females and males working together brings up the recent news about pay equality in the workplace. Even so, the script guards Harolds’ Moss from the tongue-lashing her male counterparts received, which very aptly represents the difference in how male co-workers treat each other versus the women in the workplace. The cop didn’t receive such courtesy, but there was an added dynamic in how Roger Alvarez as Roma disregarded her authority—with an unyielding self-confidence and entitlement Alvarez mastered in the role. In any case, the emasculating insults of “girly” and “princess” flung at Moss were not nearly as potent as they would have been if the traditional male casting had been used.

The production offered refreshingly good acting, which was effectively staged in the round. As the less aggressive characters, Travis Simpson as Aaranow and Michael Benson as Lingk were appropriately befuddled and anxious. Matthew Byron Cassi as Williamson wielded his power comfortably. As Levene, Jim Mammarella rode the rollercoaster of desperation and arrogance convincingly.

Roger Alvarez
and Matthew Byron Cassi
While the salesmen hurl four-letter words and issue low blows, Glengarry Glen Ross continues to illuminate why the American workforce is so fraught with problems. There’s gender bias, aggressive competition, breadwinner insecurities, ageism, nepotism, abuse of power and disregard for authority, truth and what’s best for the customer. Now in the age of instant gratification and condemnation thanks to social media, businesses are finally shifting to a consumer-centered customer service model. And although capitalism is still very much alive, the dog-eat-dog nature of commissioned sales is not necessarily the driving force of our economy—or at least not in the close or die mentality displayed in the play. Jobs are now focused on entrepreneurship, creativity and thankfully technology—most of which didn’t exist back in the ’80s when Mamet penned the Pulitzer Prize winning drama.

Glengarry Glen Ross runs through March 3 at The Vexler Theatre with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. on Sundays and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday Feb. 24. For more information, visit

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