‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ sizzles at The Umbrella



CONCORD — If, like me, you enjoy stories in which everyone is despicable, David Mamet’s testosterone-fueled Glengarry Glen Ross is hard to beat. And under the direction of Wakefield native Nancy Curran Willis, these dishonorable characters are brought to vivid life by a strong cast at The Umbrella in Concord.

Set mainly in a Chicago real estate office, the seven male characters are agents engaged in selling crappy properties to unwitting, vulnerable buyers. Needless to say, the agents are, to a man, desperate, unethical and committed to “closing” at all costs, even if it means stabbing each other in the back.

As the first scene opens, veteran agent Shelley Levene (played by Dan Kelly) is with office manager John Williamson (Gordon Ellis) at a Chinese restaurant near the office. Shelley, who has been on a losing streak, is begging John for some good leads to help pull him out of his slump.

John is less than sympathetic to Shelley’s somewhat abusive entreaties. The owners of the real estate firm have set up a competition where the top agent gets a Cadillac and the bottom agent gets fired. The top salesmen are also entitled to the best leads, while everyone else gets crap. Success, then, is rewarded with further opportunities for success, while failure virtually guarantees future failure.

In the next scene, agents Dave Moss (Jason Myatt) and George Aronow (Craig Ciampa) are commiserating over drinks in the Chinese eatery. Dave is saying that someone should pay the owners back, hurt them somehow, for the position that they’ve put the agents in. George listens as Dave proposes a burglary in which they steal the good leads and sell them to a competing real estate office.

George is unsure if Dave is serious, but Dave threatens him by saying that George is already implicated if something happens because he sat there and listened.

We next see top agent Ricky Roma (Bill Stambaugh) in action as he sells an impressionable client, James Lingk (Eric Lamarche), on a piece of property. Stambaugh is amazing as the grandiloquent salesman who pitches and pontificates, spinning lofty, philosophical soliloquies, while careful not to let the client get in a word of objection as he convinces him to hand over a check and sign a contract.

“What I’m saying, what is our life?” Roma muses rhetorically. “It’s looking forward or it’s looking back. And that’s our life. That’s it. Where is the moment? And what is it that we’re afraid of? Loss. What else?”

Stambaugh is outstanding as the fulsome agent who equates masculinity with success in selling real estate. He is the stereotypical obnoxious salesman with his strutting, bombastic style — until things start caving in on him and others in the office.

The remainder of the play takes place in the ransacked real estate office, where Williamson and a police detective (Adam Heroux) are grilling each agent in an attempt to figure out who broke in and stole the leads. Needless to say, this turn of events does not bring out the best in everyone.

David Mamet’s plays employ language that’s not for delicate sensibilities, but the reward is dialogue that can be as mesmerizing as it is profane and as hilarious as it is brutal. Glengarry Glen Ross brings the dark side of the American dream into sharp focus.

The Umbrella’s temporary quarters at 57 Old Road at Nine Acres Corner provide the perfect intimate stage to experience Glengarry Glen Ross up close and personal.

Director Nancy Curran Willis was born and raised in Wakefield and has been directing professional and community theater all over the Boston area for more than 30 years, including at Quannapowitt Players, where she got her start. She always brings out the best in her actors and crew, and Glengarry Glen Ross is no exception.

The Umbrella production does Mamet justice, and then some.
Glengarry Glen Ross runs through Feb. 4 at the Umbrella, 57 Old Road to Nine Acre Corner in Concord, Mass. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday, Jan. 28 and Sunday Feb. 4. Purchase tickets online or phone 978-371-0820.

[This review originally appeared in the January 24, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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