“Glengarry Glen Ross:” A Run for the Money

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Desperate times call for desperate measures in the Pulitzer-winning David Mamet play, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” The performance, which explores themes from the American Dream to capitalism and moral relativity, highlights the remarkable persuasive powers of a good salesman and the trials of a hard sell. The play is being staged this weekend in Olde Club at 2 and 8 pm on Saturday, 8 pm on Sunday.

“Glengarry Glen Ross” tells the story of troubled salesmen in a Chicago real estate office in the 1980s. As Chris Compton’s ’09 character Shell Levene exclaims, “Our job is to sell!” and the difficulties of this job carry the actors in an emotional whirlwind of nerves and fury. By the second act, suspicion and energy increase and the cast has rises to the occasion with gusto.

The cast shines in moments of simultaneous action and in their mastery of the persuasive sale. Compton as Levene recites a sales pitch so vividly as to create his customers out of thin air while Brian Willis ’11 as Roma, occasionally channeling Donald Trump with a confident smirk, can seemingly talk his way out of anything.

From office space to Chinese restaurant (at last those Happy Wok menus come in handy),
Olde Club serves as an intimate space for the play, reinforced by lighting by David Kornflit ’09 and the work of stage manager Callie Plafkin ’09.

Director Dustin Trabert ’10 explains his selection of the play and mentions its “distinct, finely-drawn characters.” He observes, “It’s a fantastic script with an incredible sense of language, both poetic and profane. I think drama should not approve or condemn but understand that there are larger issues.”

The play’s language has been both a point of controversy and acclaim. Though littered with profanity, Mamet’s script is also dense, rich, and rewarding to a careful listener. Assistant Director Nell Bang-Jensen ’11 points out that Mamet’s words were always carefully chosen and notes that one of the most striking parts of the play is the “juxtaposition of the beauty of this crude language and very real emotions.”

The actors and directors have clearly paid careful attention to Mamet’s writing and the emotional intensity of the play, creating a complex but engrossing performance. Trabert sums the play well with “It’s about how to live and how to make a living.”

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