Written in 1983, long before a shady real estate developer got the keys to the White House, David Mamet’s raw meat study of American capitalism seems to anticipate the Trumpian worldview – one that divides humanity into three categories: winners, losers and suckers.
Mamet begins his play with three scenes set in a Chinese restaurant. This production, directed by the New Theatre’s Lou Fischer, inserts a prequel: the barn-burning speech delivered by Alec Baldwin in Mamet’s movie adaptation of the story.
“First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado,” spits Ben Brock, playing management hot shot Blake (whom we never see again). “Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.”
Forced into a fight to the economic death are veteran salesman Levene (Mark Langham), a Willy Loman-like figure clinging on to the remnants of his reputation; career low-flyer Aaronow (Andrew Simpson); young gun Roma (Oliver Burton) and Moss (Hannah Raven), an opportunist who has something of his own to sell, a criminal plan to disrupt the practice that feeds the salesman on a hot streak the best leads.
Act II, which takes off without interval in this production, drops us into the fallout zone of Moss’s plan while begging the question, whodunit?
Granted, the public’s appetite for depictions of toxic men and the workplaces they poison is coming close to being sated by real world examples. But Glengarry remains gripping theatre and it’s robustly staged here.
Fischer has cast the piece well, bringing three women – Raven as Moss; Caroline Levien as office manager Williamson; Meg Shooter as investigating cop Baylen – into what is usually an all-male affair. Male pronouns are retained, however. Langham’s sad sack Levene draws our sympathy while remaining fundamentally unlikeable (never more so than when he thinks his luck has turned). Burton convinces as the motor-mouthed Roma, especially when we see him go to work on the hapless Lingk (Adrian Adam), his most recent client-victim. Raven is very sharp.
The staging is clever, too, with Tom Bannerman’s set design exploding the floor into different levels, adding to the sense of shifting power plays in a fast-moving tale of fundamentally isolated men who know they are selling lies yet remain largely unaware they are living one.