- Bad Epitaph's Mamet parody is surprisingly devoid of surprises.
You know the story. It's David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning, Petri-dish study of the "smile and a shoeshine" crowd, the swampland salesmen in discount suits and pinky rings who scrabble for decent leads in pursuit of their Holy Grail: a solid sale. There are now two versions of Glengarry Glen Ross in town, the all-male original and a female parody set in a beauty parlor. And one is an absolute must-see.
The peripatetic Charenton Theater Company is on the road again, this time with its free-of-charge "Business Tour" production of Glengarry, featuring a superb ensemble performance that's tighter and nastier than a Joan Rivers facelift. Director Bill Hoffman has taken Mamet's staccato dialogue and, thanks to a phenomenal cast, spun it into a compelling concert of theatrical riffs that are so buoyant, they almost levitate you. From the three mano-a-mano restaurant-table duets in Act One to the full orchestration of sweat-soaked euphoria and despair after intermission, this Glengarry is one to treasure.
Track them down in the next two weeks, at two different venues, and you'll experience a brace of performances you won't easily forget. Bernard Canepari turns Shelly "The Machine" Levene into a tragic figure of Shakespearean dimensions. His tired Willy Loman eyes register the slump-shouldered exhaustion of a man who can't make his numbers anymore, but is too poor and scared to stop trying. Whipsawed from apparent victory to utter decimation in Act Two, Canepari throbs with neediness. At the other end of the sales spectrum is cocky Ricky Roma, the ultimate barstool philosopher who can close any sale as long as he "knows the shot." Paul Floriano's Ricky is slick as a greased stiletto, prying an order out of a casual bar acquaintance (played with malleable misery by Fred Gloor) and slicing up the sales office's cretinous manager, who's given roach-like indomitability by Andrew Narten.
Mamet's simple story pivots on the idea of an office burglary planned by two of this sleazy company's midlevel hucksters, Dave and his unwitting accomplice George, played respectively by Allan Byrne and Kirk Brown. In their plotting scene, Byrne's sharp-witted Dave manipulates the slow-footed George by jumping his every hesitant thought with a brash "You're absolutely right!" And they're just as captivating later on, when pursued with gruff obnoxiousness by an investigating detective (Michael Raum).
The boys close the deal on this Glengarry Glen Ross.
Gwen Hairy, Gwen Gloss, produced by the Bad Epitaph Theater Co., is dubbed a parody by its playwright, Laurel Osterkamp. One can only wish it were so, since there is plenty to toy with in the Mamet mindset. But a parody must stretch and distort the conventions of the original piece to mock the perceived nonsense within. Instead, Ms. Osterkamp sets her 50-minute Xeroxing of Glengarry in a beauty salon, but never springboards off this clever concept into true parody. Relying on an exact tracing of Mametian plot, obscenities and macho posturing, the playwright presents three stylists who are being bitch-slapped by management over meeting referral-slip quotas for future hair appointments. The result puts Gwen Hairy somewhere between a parody and a hard place, since it never displays the courage either to sneer at Mamet's style or to create its own wacky version of Glengarry's steroidal muscle-flexing.
This is regrettable, since a witty feminist take on the Darwinian ethos of Mamet's masterpiece could be a freewheeling ride. Instead we have a lockstep march, featuring female clones of Glengarry's morally bankrupt schlubs. Strangely, the most inviting target among Mamet's scripting idiosyncrasies, the weirdly placed pauses and awkward stutters, are never addressed. And since the playwright is totally faithful to the storyline, there are no surprises, unless you find it surprising that attractive young women are talking dirty (gasp!).
Given this non-parody's inherent weaknesses, director Nick Koesters and his cast do a creditable job conveying the split-end culture in this cutthroat world. Magdalyn Donnelly and Alison Hernan are crisply comical as the star stylist Audrey and the paranoid Shelly "The Teaser" Caesar. Kellie McIvor also shines in the juicy dual role of the corporate über-bitch and Audrey's palpably pathetic customer/dupe Lexi. As the snarky, by-the-books store manager, Dana Textoris is properly icy. However, Renita Jablonski largely indicates emotions, some to excess, and misses the subtle beats of her role. As Ricky Roma would say, you gotta know the shot. And the shot is: See Charenton's Glengarry Glen Ross in all its vital, brutal, magnificently vulgar glory. And none of your fucking excuses, okay?