Updated: May 15, 2022
Mamet-Speak is on full display
By Paul Atreides
Photo by Kris Mayeshiro (KM2 Creative)
Closing out Las Vegas Little Theatre’s (LVLT) 44th season is David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.” It’s a little bit mystery; it’s a little bit comedy, it’s a little bit drama. But moreover, it’s a morality play, a tale of unscrupulous real estate salesmen all trying to undermine one another even as they make pacts to team up.
Having won two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama, two Tony awards, and two Oscars, Mamet is hailed as one of the greatest playwrights in the U.S. He’s also considered the guy who made the patterns of normal speaking an acceptable thing in plays and films. In some circles, it’s known as Mamet-Speak, not to mention the frequent use of vulgarities.
The 1984 Pulitzer-winning “Glengarry Glen Ross” is perhaps, the most frequently produced of his stage works. When a production works best, it’s because it has been treated as an ensemble work, regardless of stage time or the number of lines. That’s not to say performances can’t – or don’t – stand out. Directed by Jacob Moore, this doesn’t feel like ensemble work. It feels a bit disjointed as if each scene has nothing to do with the entirety.
Especially odd is the major set change from restaurant and bar to the rummaged-through real estate office. The cast is seen tossing the place—too intimate; we are watching a break-in. Yet, this set has been residing upstage behind a curtain, and earlier scenes intimate a plan for a singular burglar. The change then becomes an unnecessary distraction. It feels like a deliberate false red herring inserted by Moore and sticks out all the more with the final reveal.
Christos George Nikols turn in standout performances as Williamson, the guy who manages the real estate office. And Joe Basso as top-salesman Roma. That is not to say the rest of the cast turns in poor performances. They don’t. They just don’t feel part of the same production.
Nikols listens attentively, the wheels of his reactions turning inside his head and revealed in subtle ways by the twist of a rocks glass, the tilt of the head. When he outsmarts those who think he’s too young to know how the game is played, his tone almost tells us more than the words.
Basso as Roma bursts onto the stage with power and energy. His excitement levels hiccup as he switches gears back into full con mode with a client trying to back out of a large deal. The brilliance of the change comes in his mannerisms because Basso doesn’t drop energy; he reroutes and refocuses it. In this particular scene, Glenn Heath’s performance as Levene comes alive in the way he recognizes the need to assist in retaining the sale.
The set design is up to the usual high standards. Ron Lindblom always manages to evoke time and place regardless of whether it’s representational pieces, as he does with the opening Asian-themed restaurant-bar scenes or the full-box set of the real estate office. The attention to detail is always there. There are even hints to explain the play’s title, which many have wondered about over the years.
LVLT provides a warning for those who may not be familiar with a Mamet script filled with vulgarities. If f-bombs galore—among another language—bothers you, this play is not for you. But if you want to taste some true-to-life dialogue, “Mamet-Speak” is on full display.
What: Glengarry Glen Ross
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through May 15
2 p.m. Saturday, May 7
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Mainstage, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets: $30 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Grade: *** Satisfying
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Jacob Moore; Set Design: Ron Lindblom; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Stage Manager: Jim Braun