Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Glengarry Glen Ross
Asolo Repertory Theatre

Also see Bill's review of Jitney

Eric Hissom, Douglas Jones and Jay Patterson
Asolo Rep continues its examination of the American Experience with David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, directed by Carl Forsman. This play and Mamet in general are not favorites of mine. I was surprised to recollect that I have seen this play twice before as well as the film version, along with Speed the Plow (on Broadway), Oleanna (world premiere production in Cambridge, Massachusetts), Boston Marriage and Race. I would consider myself reasonably well acquainted with "Mamet speak," the author's unique language of half sentences and aborted thoughts, and have even met him on a few occasions when he lived in Boston with then wife, actress Rebecca Pidgeon. He has a particular vision of a man's world, coupled with an aggressive use of vulgarity that simply doesn't resonate with me. I expect that this will be the last time I see the Pulitzer Prize winning Glengarry Glen Ross, so it's fitting that the production is an excellent one.

The play focuses on the world of real estate salesmen selling worthless parcels to the unsuspecting. At a talk back after the performance, actor Jay Patterson suggested that this play might be the grandson of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. At the end, when son Hap vows to succeed where Willy has finally failed, he ends up as the powerhouse competitor that Mamet's salesmen revere and envy. Director Forsman seems thoroughly in touch with Mamet's unique world view. Remembering that Al Pacino played Ricky Roma in the film, it is possible to get an idea of the intensity level. This production tones down that burning combustion; Shelly Levene, George Aaronow and Dave Moss are too worn out from the years of pressure to produce, to continuously maintain laser beam focus. In the second half, the tone and tension increase dramatically. This creates a bit of subtlety in a play that I have found lacking it. Previous productions had the audience on edge from start to finish, but this one allows us to care about the characters just a little bit and focus on some details usually missed.

Doug Jones as Shelly "the machine" Levene makes me wonder how he can play the highly successful banker-father in You Can't Take It With You one night and this past-his-prime character the next. David Breitbarth as George Aaronow and Jay Patterson as Dave Moss both give strong performances. Eric Hissom plays Ricky Roma as more of a team player than I think a successful salesmen is, concerned about Shelly's under-achievement and overly happy when they think Shelly has made a big score. Perhaps this is part of the director's concept. Jesse Dornan is excellent as office manager John Williamson, all young, educated cockiness but lacking life experience to give it backbone. Francisco Rodriguez as James Lingk, who signs with Ricky and then has second thoughts, holds the stage well as Roma and Levene work as tag team against him. Jacob Cooper is solid, if a bit young, as Detective Baylen. Most importantly, all the actors play off of each other as a strong ensemble, very important in Mamet and especially this play.

The sets by Lee Savage are exceptional. The first three scenes in the first act take place in two different parts of the most realistic Chinese restaurant circa 1970s/early '80s I have ever seen. I was prepared to ask the waiter to direct me to the buffet. Act two's run down suite of offices is equally strong. Costumes by Jennifer Paar and lighting by Josh Bradford are, as always, strong assets to the production.

The Asolo Rep production of Glengarry Glen Ross is well done and will appeal to audiences who find David Mamet to their taste.

Glengarry Glen Ross at Asolo Rep through February 28. For more information, visit

Cast (In Order of Appearance)
Douglas Jones*: Shelly Levene
Jesse Dornan: John Williamson
Jay Patterson*: Dave Moss
David Breitbarth*: George Aaronow
Eric Hissom*: Richard "Ricky" Roma
Francisco Rodriguez: James Lingk
Jacob Cooper: Detective Baylen

Directed by Carl Forsman
Set Design by Lee Savage
Costume Design by Jennifer Paar
Lighting Design by Josh Bradford
Sound Design by Kevin Kennedy
Resident Hair/Wig & Make-up Design by Michelle Hart
Stage Manager: Patrick Lanczki

Photo: Cliff Roles, provided by Asolo Rep

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--William S. Oser

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