Pit & Balcony Explores the Harsh Realities of Survival in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 875   By: Robert E Martin

20th February, 2019     0

Glengarry Glen Ross is an undeniably powerful play about what happens when both ambition and survival become fueled by desperation that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984. Written by David Mamet, the play shows parts of two days in the lives of four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts—from lies and flattery to bribery, threats, intimidation and burglary—to sell undesirable real estate to unwitting prospective buyers.

Based upon Mamet's experience having previously worked in a similar office, the title comes from two real estate developments mentioned in the play.  Glengarry Highlands is the prime real estate everyone is attempting to sell now; while Glen Ross Farms is mentioned by several characters as having been very lucrative for those selling it several years ago.

The play opened on Broadway an incredible 35-years ago in March, 1984 and closed one year later after 378 performances.  It was nominated for four Tony awards and also translated for film by Mamet, featuring an all-star cast that included Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino, and the late Jack Lemmon. And now Pit & Balcony Community Theatre is taking a fresh stab at this glittering and guttural modern morality tale in their own production of Glengarry Glen Ross that will run from March 15-17 & 22-24th.

For director Danielle Katsoulos, who also oversaw a powerful adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank last year at P&B, Glengarry Glen Ross poses its own set of challenges, given the strong and relatively small ensemble cast of five male actors engaging in a wide variety of unethical or illegal acts simply to survive or validate their respective goals.

“You have to be careful, because in order for the audience to buy into the production you need the characters to have some level of likability,” she reflects. “Because. We’re dealing with liars, cheats, and bullies, it’s important to create a realness with all the characters. Yes, these are cutthroat guys that cross ethical boundaries to survive in their environment; but is the motivation behind their behavior and prompts their actions?  We’ve been focusing building an affinity towards them, so the audience understands there is always an intent behind their actions.  Mamet does a beautiful job dropping these hints, allowing us to connect with these characters on a real level - all with this staccato spray of dialogue - there’s a lot about the sub-text behind what is being said.”

Indeed, one of the reasons Glengarry Glen Ross is such a powerful production is that like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, it deals with people riding the razor’s edge of survival in the modern world. When it originally surfaced in the 1980s, Reagan was president, the ‘Me’ generation was coming into full bloom, and America transitioned from a country that was producing things to a country where commodification and consumption became the goal.

With a cast that consists of Todd Thomas as Shelley Levene; Dan Kittler as John Williamson; Shawn Finney as Dave Moss; Kevin Profitt as George Aaronow; Rusty Myers as Richard Roma; Chad William Baker as James Lingk; and Jonah Conner as Baylen.

“I’m very excited about the cast,” adds Danielle. “They’re all outstanding actors seen all over in community theatre, and one of them - Rusty Myers - actually did theatre work in Chicago and took a step away, so I’m pleased we were able to reel him back into this role. Todd Thomas has predominantly worked on the directorial side and hasn’t been on-stage in 18 years, so it’s exciting to have him back; and Kevin Profitt worked with me on The Diary of Anne Frank, so it’s exciting to see him work such a different character.”

“What I do find a little challenging is being a female directing a Mamet play with seven male actors, which can be a little intimidating because of Mamet himself and what he stands for,” smile Danielle. “Mamet isn’t your biggest feminist supporter, but I respect his work and have built a good relationship with all the actors.  The dialogue in this play is amazing.”

“There are a lot of these long monologues that always shift to a transition, so what might start with flattery will move to desperation or blackmail; but they’re always a reflection of the character’s reality.”

Pit & Balcony Community Theatre’s production of David Mamet’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ will run from Marcy 15-17 & 22-24th. Friday & Saturday performances are at 7:30 pm and Sunday Matinees are 3:00 PM. Tickets are $20.00 and can be obtained by calling the box office at 989.754.6587or visiting pitandbalconytheatre.com. Pit & Balcony is located at 805. N. Hamilton St. in Saginaw.

 

 

 

 

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