SARAH JACQUES / THE EAGLE
The vainglorious agents took their places under the sanguine lights and tucked their ties into their suits.
But they’re all women.
AU’s Department of Performing Arts will put stage David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” The 1984 stage play, which was later adapted into a film, is a scrupulous look into the mordant miscreants and embattled veterans of the real estate world.
The austere set design of both acts allowed for rivalries between cast members to roil to an impasse. Javier Rivera, assistant professor in the Department of Performing Arts at AU, directed the stage adaptation with a meticulous eye for detail while imbuing the play with a new identity.
“Mamet is pretty daunting,” Rivera said in an interview with The Eagle. “The language is difficult to take on with interlacing dialogue and ellipses. He writes like people talk.”
Rivera chose an unorthodox approach to the play: casting women in what was traditionally a male-dominated cast, taking Mamet’s machismo-laced dialogue to new heights. Rivera also takes full advantage of “Mamet Speak” to add to the characters’ sense of impending dread by allowing the interruptions and exasperations in the rhythm of the speech to propel the play forward.
In order to get the all-female cast to portray their undercutting and sinister doppelgangers, Rivera invited two real estate agents, one male and one female, to speak to the cast about how they play their trade.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” is set in two acts and alternates between a restaurant, which becomes a battleground for one-on-one rhetorical jousting, and a ramshackle real estate office where Rivera allows for primal exchanges of razor sharp dialogue to crescendo into naked desperation.
The tension soon becomes tighter than a Windsor knot with nuanced performances. College of Arts and Sciences senior Erika Grob plays the supercilious Richard Roma with excellent bravado, while zealous comeback kid Levene is played by CAS junior Madeline Steiner. Their portrayals heighten the anxiety of the moments that begin to weigh heavily upon each character.
Making the play female-centric stoked Rivera to ponder the bigger questions that have been asked for years and years.
“Where do women fall in society?” Rivera posited. “How do you see women in this world?”
CAS senior Ramya Anbalagan plays the counterpoint to the sordid world of real estate agents by playing the occasionally befuddled and dulcet James Lingk, a character who gets hoodwinked into buying property by Roma. The character echoes some of the themes of the 2008 financial crisis, which plays a crucial role within the subtext of the play.
Initially Rivera was not a fan of the play. But he was soon persuaded by the themes and Mamet’s artistic craftsmanship.
“The play is meant to be seen, not read,” Rivera said. “Mamet is a genius in the way that he writes.”