THE SHARKS ARE IN, MAMETS CLASSIC OFFICE MELTDOWN IS ALIVE AT THE ALTARENA PLAYHOUSE IN ALAMEDA
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS - REAL ESTATE BROKERS - ALWAYS CLOSING IS AN EXPLOSIVE AMERICAN CLASSIC
David Mamet has hit the east bay two times this spring. Last April at the TheatreFirst theatre company and this month at Altarena Playhouse in Alameda. Mamet is regarded as one of America's still living iconic playwrights, but many still fear his work or are ill at ease with the language of his characters. This production of the Pulitzer honored GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS now at the Altarena is excellent.
Director John Maio drives his top rate cast to the darkest view of human nature. His direction is paced well and his all male company hits the Mamet target. What Mamet could have done with AMC’s MAD MEN would be something to see. But we get to sit in the Glen Ross office with these salesmen sharks face to face, and F bomb to F bomb. Its a powerful two hours of American Theatre.
The story takes place in world of real estate salesmen attempting to survive, while they attempt to sell worthless Florida property. All five salesmen are under the gun to improve their sales or move on. Keith Jefferds plays Shelly Lavene, once a the number one man on the sales team. Jefferds is superb in the role and brings that rumpled “once was” look to his character. Local favorite Michael Sally plays the cold hearted Office Manager John Williamson, Sally is perfect in this role and does an impressive performance.
The show stopper of this 2 hour non stop boys club of neckties, is Matt Monaco as Ricky Roma. Al Pacino made this role iconic in the 1992 film version, and Monaco brings this salesman to the Alameda black box with the same intense ego. Since this play is performed in a small space we are put face to face with these actors in the office desk to desk. The force of Monaco performance brings the crowd in the office to an applause after one of his better monologues. I do admit that Matt does do a bit of Pacino moves, but they are well deserved. As he delivers his meek client Mr. Lingk (Bruce Kaplan) a plot of BS about the wonderful Florida property. The classic line “always be closing” rings well in this office.
The company is non stop and well cast, bringing the story to the full edge. The pompous Charles Aaronow is played by Charles Evans who shows his emotional skills after being interviewed by Detective Baylen (Daniel Hollander). Ted Barker is perfect as survivor Dave Moss who loses the game. Director John Maio uses the small Altarena space well bringing the Mamet event face to face with the sold out audience. Maio says “GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS examines the sell-at-any-cost lives of real estate salesmen, baked in dripping sarcasm, layered with racism and frosted with desperation. However, it always maintains a sense of humor, allowing the audience a much needed release, that stops them from rising out of their seats and literally choking the actors on stage.”
Artistic Director Clay David created the office scene based mainly on the props we see scattered on stage as we return to Act II. A floor of paper and steel desks you could feel the cluttered office that you would hate to work at. Stewart Lyle designed the set including the opening act Chinese restaurant where we meet the players. Liz Martin brings it with the shark clothes design for the all male cast, most impressive are their over coats. The lighting is simple but the street scene so subtle is done well by Anne Kendall.
There are other Glen Ross offices to check out this spring in the East Bay, but I recommend this cast and wonderful production. It will bring the Greek to MAD MEN, and the Reagan era to your lap. Congrats to the cast and production team, this office is a shark tank that needs to be seen, it is an American classic.
Glengarry Glen Ross
by David Mamet, Directed by John Maio.
May 15–June 14; Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm
Special Thursday performance June 11
Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda,
TICKET PRICES: $26. Tickets available at www.altarena.org,
Photos by Melissa Nigro