BWW Review: GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS says F*** YOU at Dirt Dogs Theatre Co
DIRT DOGS Theatre Company has decided to bring the hyper male GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS back from the 80s to remind us of how evil straight white men can really be. The troubling part is the agents of the real estate firm in the show are foul-mouthed, sexist, homophobic, racist, bullies who treat each other terribly throughout. So much for white male privilege... here we only see desperation, guilt, and greed. Men suck, and they say the F word a lot! Head out to the MATCH to see how very little has changed since 1984.
David Mamet's GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS won a Pulitzer Prize for when it debuted on Broadway thirty-three years ago. It shows a glimpse into two days with four real estate agents in Chicago who are ready to do anything to get ahead of each other. They close ruthless deals, they beg for help, they steal things, and they belittle and berate each other every single second. The first act is played out entirely in the booths of a Chinese restaurant somewhere near their office at night, and then the play shifts to the actual work space the next morning. It is enraging, devastating, but also slyly funny in the darkest of ways. It still feels authentic in the portrayal of how men relate to each other in the world.
DIRT DOGS is run by a married couple, and surprisingly it is wife Malinda L. Beckham who takes on directing this testosterone fueled drama. She doesn't shy away from using the original script which caused controversy with lines insulting families from India about them being bad clients. Subsequent revivals and the movie took the slams on the "Patels" out, but she leaves it in. Ironically at the MATCH next door is an Indian company performing at the same time as this production. Malinda has balls, and she is not afraid to use them. Husband Trevor Cone managed this production and probably had dinner on the table promptly after rehearsals.
Ken Watkins plays Shelley Levene who is the play's central tortured soul. He's a washed up salesman who has seen better days, but is desperately trying to catch up to his younger co-workers and glorious past. Watkins literally shakes with desperation and guilt, and he manages to pull off one of the trickiest male roles in modern day theater. He's completely in the moment and drives the show home with his conflicted nuanced performance. Jeff Featherstone and Jonathan Gonzalez manage to create perfect portraits of ruthlessness playing a slick conman and a simpering office manager respectively. Allen Doris and Kurt Bilanoski exude anxiety as the scared men trapped in certain hells of their own design. Bill Giffen is a twitchy mess as the criminally-minded Moss, and Casey Coale is a no-nonsense cop who never loses it. The whole ensemble here are terrific at what they do, and the guys make Mamet look deceptively easy. They have a musicality about them that keeps the play humming along at a brutal pace.
Technically the show is as handsome as the performances in it. James V. Thomas has built a simple set that feels authentic in both acts. Corey Sinclair's sound design is insidious and insightful from the punk rock pre-show to the underscoring of tacky Asian tunes in the restaurant. Malinda directed the show, but she also supervised the scenic and costume design. Both feel solid and inventive for a company renting a space in Midtown. John Baker kinda pulls off miracles with his wickedly intense office lighting that ratchets up the drama of the second act.
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS stands the test of time because old white men are still jerks and Mamet is a genius at creating dialogue for them. In this new era the script is a reminder of how great America was decades ago when greed and desperation fueled f--king everything. It's amazing that director Malinda Beckham decided this is what she wanted to take on, but she does so without apology or explanation. The cast does justice to the intense script with Ken Watkins wringing the soul out of the hollowness of it all. This one is worth remembering, and DIRT DOGS has made a handsome production out of an ugly subject. But the best part is, maybe we've come far enough along to find the comedy in this show as well as the horror. Let's hope that's true anyways.
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS plays through March 18th at the MATCH complex in Midtown Houston. You can get tickets from DIRT DOGS directly at www.dirtdogstheatre.org/ or through the MATCH website at https://matchouston.org/