Occasionally it behooves a critic to preamble a column by acknowledging a bias or an involved history. This is one such circumstance. From 1973 to ’81, I worked for a Buffalo N.Y. – based pool company branch-operating locally …it was an eye-opener into the machinations of high-powered American sales techniques. Some of those can be witnessed on “Pawn Stars”. Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” characterizes some of those; but 1987’s “TIN MEN” could have been shot in my showroom.
Similar to the plot of GG G-R, the internecine scuffle among salesmen for the hottest leads is dictated by both monetary and hierarchy achievement. The financial status; neighborhood; source and reference of the prospect can be quantified by an experienced salesman and such an agent usually tailors his pitch accordingly.
The Mississauga Players chose Frank DeFrancesco & Katie Rebiere to co-direct the six women representing Mamet’s stereotypical salesmen. There is the desperate has-been trying to make a comeback; the callous closer; the manipulator; and the ‘A’ & ‘B’-type personalities. All the conflict and dialogue take place over two days in which a large bonus or a firing is at stake. To say that there is pressure on the protagonists is euphemistic.
Co-directing is a full-time task but Rebiere also portrays one of the agents. Her successful sales leader Ricky Roma epitomizes the overt as well as subliminal coercion to save a close, even to prevaricating recourse. She captures the essence of her character, albeit one whose sense of morality or empathy is totally lacking. Another strong representation is given by Krista Barzso whose Dave Moss is totally unprincipled. Back in my days of exposure to the genre; we referred to such personas as Kennedy-esque, referring to that family’s strong belief in any end justifying the means. Her method of persuasion vacillates between carrot and whip. This scribe identified mostly with Mandi Sunshine’s office manager ‘John’ who must balance obligation to top-echelon with the enticements (read bribes) offered by the field reps. In my case it was $5.00 for personal opinion of the prospect with an additional $10.00 if they made the sale. Later, there were additional ‘spiffs’.
The scene-stealer role is that of Shelly Levene who is enduring a slump. Karen Shue captures all the manifestations of desperation. Her (his) pleading; her buying-back-the-sale loquaciousness and her obvious anguish reek of someone frantically trying to stay afloat. I kept expecting her to pull out a whiskey flask!
Glengarry Glen Ross contains a surfeit of the ‘F-word’ but given the situation on stage, it would be glaring were the scatology omitted. We learned that two backstage situations occurred; a necessitated change in the actual play; and a last-minute change of actors. Fortunately, the modifications are seamless and unnoticeable. This is what theatre is all about. The play should be obligatory for anyone subject to the vagaries of door-to-door offers as well as for those intimidated by vigorous coercion. We enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to see it!