There is no use in pretending that we did not think of James Foley’s 1992 adaptation of David Mamet’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning play about four crooked real estate salesmen who desperately try to keep their jobs amidst the unscrupulous demands of a treacherous office manager. And it is terribly difficult to not think of Al Pacino’s marvelous portrayal of Ricky Roma; it is terribly difficult to not think of Jack Lemmon’s brilliant portrayal of the desperate Willy Loman-like Shelley “The Machine” Levene, a former sales giant who has fallen from grace. Yes, it’s hard to follow behind such classic performances but I was willing to clear my head and give a fair chance to The Ringwald Theatre’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross.
Glengarry Glen Ross is the story of desperation, greed, cunning, deception and dishonesty. Travis Reiff played Richard Roma, a conniving top seller at a real estate firm. Joe Bailey is the desperate and pathetic Shelley Levene, a has-been salesman who wants to return to “the board” of seller greatness, but such an urgent desire is really motivated by Levene’s financial responsibilities toward his chronically ill daughter. Dave Moss is played by Dax Anderson; George Aaronow is played by Patrick Loos; James Lingk is played by David Schoen, and Nicholas LaGrass plays Baylen. Jamie Warrow directs.
The two most important characters (I believe) are Richard Roma and Shelley Levene. Reiff misses his opportunity to make Roma his own, and ultimately destroyed any potential to take the character anywhere beyond the ridiculous mess of his pathetic imitation of Al Pacino’s version of Roma. At times I wasn’t even sure whether I was watching Reiff do a bad imitation of Pacino, or whether I was watching Reiff pay homage to Dustin Hoffman’s Willy Loman. Reiff was thoroughly disappointing.
On the other hand, Joe Bailey’s Shelley Levene was the only performance that saved the play. Bailey… and the set design. Bailey seemed to be the only one trying to…act, to bring depth and dimension to the character. Although Bailey’s exuberant portrayal lacked the anxiety and desperation necessary to do justice to the Levene character, Bailey’s earnest attempt to show the miserable sense of Levene’s dire hopelessness and omnipresent despair clearly outshined the diminutive Reiff’s poor mixture of Hoffman and Pacino. Jennifer Maiseloff’s clever set design, particularly the office, indeed set the tone and feel of the moment, era, the time, and the caustic tension between the mendacious characters and the mundane nature of their wicked lives.
The Ringwald Theatre’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross is worth the dough. Go see it at 22742 Woodward Ave, Ferndale MI. Showtimes are February 20 through March 16, Friday/Saturday/Monday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm. Tix are $10.00 – $20.00