'Glengarry Glen Ross' more comedy than drama


Do men and women in our society talk the same?

Director Ruth Pe Palileo would have us think so, but I think she's dead wrong. She's taken one of the most testosterone-laden scripts - David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" - and turned it into a women-at-the-office fable.

We're thrust into the land of needy, greedy real estate agents, who all seem one sale away from stability or destruction. We're watching capitalism at its worst.

Mamet captures the spirit of male language (when males are alone) as a tool in establishing a pecking order. When a man makes an angry, sexual remark to another male, he's implying his victim is not as much a man as he should be, that he is more like a woman, a second-tier being (understand, I'm talking about the characters' attitudes, not mine).

When the "accusations" come out of the mouths of women, they make little sense. "Glengarry" is no more about females than "Little Women" is about males. To deny that is a failure to recognize what this play is all about.

To compound matters, Pe Palileo has been forced, through a licensing agreement, to keep the characters' names and pronouns male. All this distancing makes it difficult to get into the production's reality.

No wonder, then, that Pe Palileo has turned the drama into a sketch comedy. Actresses exaggerate their characters' eccentricities so that we take little of this seriously.

But the performers - within the misguided concept - are directed well, and miraculously capture the flavor of Mamet speech. It's no small feat that the rhythms feel very right. Anne Davis Mulford as a domineering thug, Marlena Shapiro as a seemingly heartless top-of-her-game pro and Valerie Carpenter Bernstein as a mousy accomplice have created funny, overblown caricatures that would be perfect in a spoof. Gail K. Romero suggests a tinge of pathos as an over-the-hill hustler who is trying to prove she's still got what it takes.

As a curiosity - an entertaining, academic treatise about how modern women have been as dehumanized as men by power and money - this production is worth exploring. But it's amazingly nutty at the core.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

 

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