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Theater Review: Glengarry Glen Ross

Ffffffreakin' good performances at Lakewood Playhouse

Joseph Grant, left, and Kyle Sinclair in David Mamet's story of down-on-their-luck salesmen, staged at the Lakewood Playhouse. Photo by Kate Paterno-Lick, courtesy Lakewood Playhouse

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We all know what it feels like to be stuck in a job we hate, where managers lead by harassment and double down on strategies that didn't work the first hundred times. Imagine you're trapped in a low-rent Chicago sales office with five alpha males, each struggling to sell Florida swampland before apathetic corporate overlords drop the axe. If you're looking to feel better about your working life, David Mamet's 1983 drama Glengarry Glen Ross is a great place to start.

John Munn, the director of Lakewood Playhouse's current production, took pains to show off the set dressing and props by Jeffery Weaver. I've worked with Weaver before and need zero convincing of his abilities and dedication, but it's worth pointing out that even the business cards deep in desktop stacks are labeled with character names and other details. Same goes for the bulletin boards, which include land development photos and takeout menus for deep dish pizza. Note also John Burton's subtle sound design, in which a cheap office clock ticks away the dreary hours of these sales reps' quotidian existence.

One challenge of working in Mamet's macho milieu is that even as it stylizes its vulgarity-laden dialogue (my wife: "No one talks like this!"), it demands naturalistic acting. His drama hinges on urgency, and that doesn't always mean accelerated speech. It means vital speech, delivered under the gun of emergency stakes. I worried about this during the first scenes Saturday, as the ensemble greeted the news they'd been fired with offhand sneers. Among the play's memorable lines is "Always Be Closing." I can't say Munn's cast took this adage to heart through the entire performance, but experienced actors brought the sucker home for a barnburner of a second act.

From a directorial standpoint, this show is cast and united terrifically. Its palookas look so at home in their hunch-shouldered world I kept expecting them to toast, "To Bill Brasky!" Mamet's roles are among the most coveted by male actors, none more so than Shelly the so-called "Machine" Levene. Jack Lemmon's portrayal in the 1992 film adaptation is so justly revered it was enshrined as "ol' Gil" on The Simpsons. Joseph Grant comes at this hapless character from a different angle, yet he's every bit as good as Lemmon. I dug W. Scott Pinkston's Roma, a character who appears sympathetic even as he's metaphorically knifing his boss in the groin. That boss is played by Kyle Sinclair, whose performance here reminds us he's every bit as miserable as his employees.

Lakewood's Glengarry grabs the reins of its exposition and takes off at a run as a police detective (Dave Hall) arrives to investigate an overnight robbery. Local actors could learn a lot by watching the arcs of these characters in Act II. Brother, talk about fuckin' closing.

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 1, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $19-$25, 253.588.0042

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