Terry Hempleman and Patrick Coyle in "Glengarry Glen Ross" at Torch Theater
Photo: Thomas Sandelands
"Glengarry Glen Ross" casts a cold eye on the real estate business. Written by David Mamet, the play was turned into a movie in 1992 starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon and Alec Baldwin. Torch Theater presents its own version with local star talent through January 29 at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. Thinking about going? Check out these reviews:
The play is a brutal, searing, and triumphant work, and the current production by Torch Theater lives up to the show's pedigree...
...Glengarry Glen Ross offers plenty of chances for actors to dig into the roles and situations, though it's also easy for the action to quickly overheat and turn into a contest of who can shout "fuck" the loudest. The seven actors keep the heat on simmer, letting the rage that inhabits each member of the sales force emerge as the situations develop. They are led by Terry Hempleman as Levene, who turns in a terrific performance as the crushed-by-life salesman. Throughout, there is a sense of fear behind his every word, even when he is recounting his latest victory or berating Williamson. The only time it seems to completely fade is when he aids Roma in trying to deceive a client with cold feet...
...Glengarry Glen Ross moves with speed and efficiency, due both to Mamet's economical script and the tight directing from David Mann. That not only gives the play lots of energy, but it highlights the stink of desperation that hovers around these characters. This is a world that moves quickly, and if you can't keep up, you will be left along the road to die.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" allows us a safe distance from which to admire the stained slaughterhouse where ravenous slashers carve their pigeons with such finesse that the victim scarcely realizes he's been mortally wounded. Despite its venal intent, this is a marvelously audacious thing to watch.
David Mamet's "Glengarry," in a production by Torch Theater at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, still arouses that primitive joy of the hunt. That Mamet wrote a classic is easy to discern in the simple games of human behavior, the instinct for survival, response to crisis, and the feral nose for success, however that is defined. Unapologetically masculine and misogynistic, Mamet's play demands we consider a world in which hunters rule, and nesters cower.
"I swear, it's not a world of men," roars Richard Roma, portrayed with cocky and seductive charm by Patrick Coyle in Torch's production. "It's a world of clock watchers, bureaucrats, officeholders. We are the members of a dying breed."
Roma is one of two thrumming engines that should drive Mamet's cynical homage to salesmanship, and Coyle has this character oiled, locked in and charged with volatility. In the first act -- a triptych played out on set designer Michael Hoover's perfectly imagined Chinese restaurant -- Coyle's Roma casts a hook baited with adventure and danger into the limp jaw of one James Lingk, a nicely realized sap in John Middleton's hands. Roma is not offering property as much as he's offering risk and thrill -- the chance to be alive.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" is a tricky play: A successful production of David Mamet's foul-mouthed, rough-edged glimpse at salesmanship and testosterone must balance -- thematically, linguistically and emotionally -- on a razor's edge.
It is a credit, then, to Torch Theater's production that the effort never shows. A talented cast of seven actors under the steady hand of director David Mann moves through the material with confidence and even a sense of coarse grace. The rat-a-tat rhythms of Mamet's language are played with proficiency and polish.
Ironically, though, it's that same effortlessness that ultimately defangs the Torch production, which has the feeling of hitting all the right notes without really making the music.
...There's not enough subtle but critical nuance to set these characters apart from each other. Terry Hempleman doesn't have the requisite mileage on him to play Levene. He radiates the resignation and faded pride of an erstwhile winner, but the performance lacks the sheen of desperation that fuels the character and creates the emotional distance from Ari Hoptman's nicely sad-sack performance as the perennial loser Aaronow.
Peter Carlin plays office manager John Williamson with a proper sense of antagonism but without the necessary faint undertow of menace. Patrick Coyle's Ricky Roma delivers a galvanizing first-act monologue about insecurity and opportunity, but his unflinching cockiness represents too few degrees of separation from James Michael Detmar's bilious, blustering and sometimes overpowering performance as Moss.
This lack of crystal-clear differentiation fuzzes the play's focus. Among other things, this is a play about the hair's-breadth between success and failure, and when the performances don't knit together precisely, the whole doesn't transcend the sum of its parts.
Have you seen Torch Theater's production of Glengarry Glen Ross? If so, share your thoughts in the comments section.
I saw the matinee last Sunday and loved it. It was thrilling, seductive, and devastating. I thought all of the performances were spot-on. This is the kind of theater I love to see--raw, visceral, intimate, and powerful. I looked around several times, and everyone in the audience was literally leaning forward hungrily. Bravo.