Review: Glengarry Glen Ross at The Gate Theatre
Should you spend an evening with the sharp talking, sharp practice merchants of Glengarry Glen Ross? JOE’s Sean Nolan went along to The Gate Theatre to find out.
It’s not often you go to a play and they have warnings in the foyer regarding the language you about to hear from the stage. We’re not saying it’s a bad thing by the way, and, considering it’s David Mamet’s best known work that The Gate are showing now - until July 14 - a bit of a heads up if your theatre-going partner for the night might be a little sensitive is no harm.
Glengarry Glen Ross may be speckled with more swearing than a transcript of Davy Fitzgerald’s sideline musings but the 1984 classic is so much more than a well-written collection of venomous dialogue.
The play was turned into the critically-acclaimed 1992 film but even if you have seen that version, the source material is well worth a look. For a start, Alec Baldwin’s hideous character from the movie, Blake, was never in the Mamet original so the focus of the stage version is exclusively on the small band of real estate salesmen who are caught up in a desperate bid to get sales and avoid the sack.
The grasping desperation of all involved, from the current top dog Richard Roma (Reg Rogers) to the fading old-timer Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levine (Owen Roe) is gripping right from the off, where we meet Shelley desperately trying to get a little help from office manager John (John Cronin).
'The Machine' in action
While you can’t help but initially think of the movie depiction of Shelley by the great Jack Lemmon, and maybe The Simpsons Gil, soon Roe’s portrayal of a man on the edge of disaster takes over and you alternate between pity and anger at his actions and demeanour.
While not all the performers reach Roe’s lofty heights, the script more than covers for the odd flat spot. Mamet’s dialogue has been compared to music, as it flows and stops, pitches and tilts, with cadences and speech patterns whisking you along a fairly simple plot.
To do that requires great acting skill and this production is well served. Rogers’ portrayal of Roma, played by Al Pacino in the film, certainly has echoes of the Hollywood icon but when his character is so much fun, even when he is in the act of treating a potential new client disgracefully, you can’t help but root for him.
Due to the break-neck pace of the script, the show's two acts zip by. At times you feel pummelled by the dialogue, softened up by its ferocity and like the poor mark that Roma has eyed up for his target-reaching sale (an excellent Peter Hanly), you would probably sign anything too if these guys came down into the audience.
With the obvious overtones of our own ill-starred obsession with property, and the fly-by-night operators behind the Celtic Tiger dreams, this play has never seemed so relevant to Irish audiences.
Go, be appalled by the language and characters and have a whale of time. And always be thankful that you aren’t on either side of a Glengarry Glen Ross transaction.
Tickets for Glengarry Glen Ross, priced from €20-€35, are available from The Gate Theatre website.