First Look: ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ at Road Less Traveled Theatre

It’s a cut throat world. It’s competitive, fierce, scheming at times, rewarding when you’re on top, and devastating when you can’t succeed. Sometimes you can pay the bills, other times you struggle.

But enough about theatre.

David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play “Glengarry Glen Ross” tells the story of real estate agents trying to unload less than desirable properties to prospective buyers. The scariest thing about this script is that Mamet based it on his personal experience working in that world.

Road Less Traveled Productions interpretation of this intense show opens October 27, and according to the company website, it promises to be a little bit “Death of a Salesman” and a little bit “The Hunger Games” rolled into a tense drama.

“I’ve been thinking about this play for a couple of years,” says director Scott Behrend. “I think it’s a timely play for us now.”

Timely indeed, both for our driven-to-succeed-society, and the overall gestalt of Road Less Traveled’s immensely talented ensemble and its provocative season.

Behrend has opted for the original 1984 script, with its strong language and not-so-subtle ethnic slurs and jabs. Later productions in other cities have softened the overall tone and downplayed the ethnic references.

Behrend and the cast is digging deep with this one. “We’ve done a lot with our dramaturg, Kate Mallinson – who researched the ‘art of selling’ and sales techniques and how to create customer relations,” Behrend states. The irony is that several members of the cast have held sales jobs at some point in their non-theatre careers.

Talk in early rehearsals dealt the American capitalist society’s evolution from the time Arthur Miller wrote “Death of a Salesman” in 1949 (which also won the Pulitzer Prize in that year), to Mamet’s 1994 script, and a 21st century new media world.  Behrend says, “A lot of these perceptions haven’t changed and may not ever change. These guys are doing that they need to do to close the sale and put food on the table. There’s a lot of commentary in Mamet’s script, too, about truth and lies. What Mamet didn’t anticipate 30 years ago is the idea of ‘alternative truth.’ These guys will do anything to close the deal.”

The production includes Matthew Witten as Richard Roma, (Behrend says he’s excited by the challenges his nefarious character provides), David Mitchell, and David Hayes in the principle roles. While Behrend likes to give his actors opportunities for artistic growth, this show in particular is rich with great dialogue that is attractive to actors. Behrend says this toughness bring the characters to the “edge of their moral spectrum.” The cast he selected, Behrend feels, is at the right time in their lives and artistry to take on these roles.

Almost as important as the script, the story, and its interpreters is that silent partner on stage: the set. Dyan Burlingame designed an interesting set that morphs between the Chinese restaurant in Act One and the cramped and frenetic office in Act Two. What you won’t see are cell phones or computers, as Behrend reminds us, “we were living in a pen, paper, and typewriter world back then.”  He concludes, “This play can be really powerful in our space and its intimate setting.”

See it for yourself October 27 to November 19. Click here for show times and ticket info.

Promotional Consideration Paid For By The Theatre Alliance Of Buffalo.