Cold Calls 

Desperate salesmen squirm in this compelling production of Mamet's classic.

David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Glengarry Glen Ross," now playing at the Firehouse Theatre Project, lets you know what life is like on the other side of the telephone line. And it's not pretty.

Mamet's play about real estate salesmen in Chicago during the late 1980s was made into a star-studded, award-winning movie in the '90s. While it might seem daunting to follow such critical acclaim, director Morrie Piersol gives the audience a fresh look at this cinematic classic. The fast pace and high pressure of a sales competition become the equivalent of social Darwinism as desperate salesmen plan to rob the sales leads from their own office in order to make those sales. Stage manager Elizabeth Ward and scene designers Scott Creighton and David McLain create a set that at once echoes and accentuates the materialistic, cannibal sales culture at the heart of Mamet's play.

Like all of Mamet's plays, the dialogue virtually sings with truth. It not only captures the reality of the characters' situation, it allows the audience a glimpse into their lives. The lines of the characters overlap one another; they jump in on each other's sentences; and often one character finishes another's thoughts. This is pulled off skillfully in Act One during an intense exchange between the salesmen Dave Moss (d.l. Hopkins) and George Aaranow (Christopher Dunn). Both actors give wonderful performances as they rapidly vent their frustrations with their boss and the sheer hopelessness of their jobs. Hopkins and Dunn rifle through a near-surgical exchange that voices both their characters' desperation and their back-stabbing natures.

While the play traces the pathetic fall of Shelly Levene (Rick Warner), it is really the performance of Justin Dray as Richard Roma that steals the show. Warner does a respectable job as the desperate salesman on a career-ending losing streak. However, his interplay with the other actors is rather flat throughout the production. Dray, on the other hand, is on-target for the entirety. Whether he is gently persuading the gullible James Lingk (Harry Kollatz Jr.) into purchasing a property or espousing his philosophy about the sales profession, Dray is always able to capture the Zenlike calm of a salesman at the top of his game.

Written in the '80s, "Glengarry Glen Ross" champions the theme of the decade: A consumer culture ultimately consumes and destroys itself. Now, in the light of Enron and the whole Internet start-up debacle, this theme seems to ring true 20 years later. While the play does show the salesman's side of the story, it is a story filled with fear, anxiety and immorality. So after seeing the show you still might not want to be nice to telemarketers. In fact, you might not want to answer the phone at all. S

"Glengarry Glen Ross" runs Thursday-Sunday through March 17 at the Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St. Tickets cost $15. 355-2001


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