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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Glengarry Glen Ross
at ACT is Powerful

Also see these recent reviews:
The Illusion | Copacabana | Enter the Guardsman


American Conservatory Theater has come up with the best production of their season so far. David Mametís Pulitzer Prize winning dark comedy, Glengarry Glen Ross, opened to an enthusiastic audience Wednesday night. Director Les Waters assembled a perfect cast of Bay Area favorites to portray the cutthroat real-estate salesmen.

The playwright exposes a dog-eat-dog world, where a few small-time, ruthless, real-estate salesmen scramble for their fair share of the American Dream. At once hilarious and disturbing, the play presents a Darwinian battle between men who scheme, cheat, curse, plead, steal, despair and connive in an attempt to get "on the board", each revealing a seamy side of human nature. The board is the office chart that marks who is ahead in the sales race. Number one gets a Cadillac, and someone might get the ax.

The characters speak in a distinctive mix of jargon, banter, machismo and broken emotion that reflects their stuttering heartbeat of everyday speech. This play is probably the most coruscating example of rhythmic dialogue, which is Mametís signature style. The speeches are raunchy, boisterous, and riveting. The play is much more about the salesmen's spirit, toughness and the will to survive in the merciless game. The basis of the play is that these slimy salesmen in their Chicago office are trying to sell property in Florida to the common folk of the Windy City. They ply every trick in the book in order to make a sale.

The first act is a gem in staging, setting up the play. It takes place in a Chinese restaurant. There are three disjointed scenes, each with a confrontation between two men in the restaurant. The first scene takes place on stage right, the second scene is half on stage left and the final scene of the first act opens up on the whole restaurant with its deep red leather booths and paper lanterns of Loy Arcena's beautifully framed set. Each scene is key to what happens in the second act. The director let the actors develop each scene at an unhurried pace and this created exciting tension on the part of the fast talking salesmen.

The second act is the meat of the play. It takes place the morning after, in a ransacked real estate office. Someone had broken in and stolen all of the "leads" that were the salesmen's "bread and butter". The question is, who did the break in?

The seven actors on stage get to perform the ensemble roles of a lifetime and each actor is superb. Tony Amendola is spectacularly pathetic as Shelly Levine. His transformation from a whiner to a boisterous person is amazing to watch. Rod Gnapp plays his superior who wonít cut Shelly a break. Rod is one of our better young actors here in the Bay Area. In this play, he looks and acts like a young Richard Widmark. He is masterly as the cold-hearted, ruthless office manager. John Apicella, as Moss, is lively as the low-life who dreams up the idea of an office heist. James Carpenter does some of his best work to date as the intimidated customer, Lingk. He does wonders with the role in the second act as he is pushed to the limit by wonderkid Roma.

Marco Barricelli, one of the Bay Areaís finest actors, is marvelous as the flashy, manic, high rolling top salesman, Roma. He particularly shines in the first act as he slowly sells a piece of Florida property to Lingk. It is a tour de force by Mr. Barricelli. He seems capable of selling a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Matt Gottlieb, as Aaronow, is superb in the second scene of the first act, listening to the low-life Moss. To round out the cast, we have Brian Keith Russell playing the Chicago detective. It is a small role but he makes the most of the Chicago cop.

This is a production that crackles with heat and momentum. It is played to perfection (however, be forewarned, the "F" word is used at least 100 times). Glenarry Glen Ross runs through February 4th at the Geary Theatre. Ticket prices are $15 to $61 and are available by calling 415-749-2228 or by logging on to www.act-sfbay.org. The next ACT production will be Richard Nelsonís Goodnight Children Everywhere.

Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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