Sunday, February 28, 2010

Glengarry Glen Ross is the boss!

Whether you like David Mamet or not, you just knew the Seattle Rep's production of Glengarry Glen Ross, directed by Wilson Milam, was going to be brilliant just for the incredible cast.

Start off with three Seattle legends: R. Hamilton Wright as Ricky Roma, in his 45th play at the Rep since 1979. John Aylward as Shelly Levene, 47 productions at the Rep since 1970. Charles Leggett as Dave Moss, whose Rep performances aren't enumerated in the program, but who has run up a string of great performances of late, topped by his Shylock last year that garnered him both a Wisey Award for best actor and a Theatre Puget Sound "Gregory" (no relation) award for outstanding actor. Mix in a couple of future legends, MJ Sieber of the promising New Century Theatre Company and Shawn Belyea, who is executive producer of 14/48 and artistic director at Balagan Theatre, among other pursuits. Throw in solid performers Ian Bell and Russell Hodgkinson, and you've got a bunch of guys you'd pay to watch reading the phone book.

A couple of scenes really stick with me. There's one early between Hodgkinson and Leggett (L-R at right), talking in the Chinese restaurant, in which Moss is trying to convince George to rob the office and steal the leads. The dialog is so crisp, the banter so letter perfect and razor sharp, and Leggett's use of the shoulder poke and emphatic control of cigarette smoke so incredible that you're totally drawn in. Amazing timing, incredible precision. The second comes later, when Bell's character James Lingk comes in to the office to try to get out of a deal he made with Wright's Roma. Aylward and Wright work to dupe Bell, Sieber screws it up, and the tantrum Wright throws is priceless. In fact, there are a number of great tantrums in the show, with chair throwing, chair kicking, file box kicking. And it's all done with great verve and energy.

This is a short show. Curtain was at 7:30, and it finished at about 9:10 -- WITH INTERMISSION. I know, I know, you've got to sell a few cookies and glasses of wine, but the intermission messed with the flow of the show. We've seen enough great one-act plays and short productions, e.g. Balagan's great staging of another Mamet piece, Edmond, earlier this year, to come to think that intermission is the work of the devil. Maybe if you're doing full-text Hamlet you need a break, but even Americans can sit still for an hour and a half for some gripping, compelling theater.

Interestingly enough, Gary Cole was originally cast as Roma, with Wright as Dave Moss and Leggett as Lingk. Cole had to bow out just at the start of rehearsals because of a family emergency. I think director Milam lucked out. Right now it's about as hard to imagine anyone but Wright (OK, maybe Al Pacino) playing Roma as it is trying to imagine Ronald Reagan playing Rick in Casablanca. Leggett is an incredible actor and was fabulous as Moss. Trust your local talent!

All in all, Glengarry Glen Ross was great theater. I'd like to see it about five more times. Alas, it closed today.

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