- Connecticut Critic
In Las Vegas in November of 2012, an all-female cast ran amuck with David Mamet’s iconic play, Glengarry Glen Ross. It was the first time this was done live and they had the blessing of Mr. Mamet himself, with one caveat: not one word could be changed. That may not seem like a big deal until you realize that all of the characters are written as men, with male names, and gender identifiers such as “he,” and “him,” and “sir,” and “Mr.” At almost the exact same time, another all-female production was being done at American University in Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter in February of 2013, Jason Reitman directed an all-female, celebrity cast for a one-time-only live read of the screenplay version as part of the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series. While definitely not a new concept, Curtain Call in Stamford is bringing their version of an all-female Glengarry Glen Ross to life, and they did a very admirable job.
In a conversation I had with Erin Estes back in 2013, I asked her about her involvement and experience with the 2012 Las Vegas production. The reviews for that show had called it “schtick” and “tiresome” but “ballsy”. She concurred that while it was a great experience and that they received a lot of good feedback, the general consensus was that after the first few times that a woman was referred to as a “he,” that it became redundant and lost its poignancy. I suspected this might be the case with the Stamford mounting, as well. After all, I had completed a directorial proposal for the same concept in 2013, but didn’t submit it because I wasn’t sure if it would work. I also participated in a living room reading of the show, all-female casting with a group of amazing women, but walked away unconvinced that the idea had legs.
After seeing the Curtain Call production last night, I can tell you that it DOES in fact work, and that after the first few times a woman was referred to as a “he”, not only did it NOT become redundant, but I stopped hearing the discrepancy altogether.
The cast is clearly talented. Lynnette Victoria as “John Williamson” was cool as a cucumber and exuded every ounce of authority and confidence. Nancy Anderson, who I have been longing to see back on stage, rocked the opening scene with neurosis, frenetic energy, desperation, and a dedication to her character of “Shelly Levene” that sucked the audience in from the get-go. As “Dave Moss”, Marilyn Olsen gave her usual strong performance with nuance and levels, while Paulette Layton deftly added subtle comedy and brilliant levity to the otherwise intense play with her “George Aaronow”. Gail Yudain and Erica Evelti rounded out the ensemble, with Ms. Yudain adding the blind innocence of “James Lingk” and Ms. Evelti keeping the storyline moving as “Baylen” (appropriate also as assistant director). It was Julie-Thaxter-Gourlay, though, as “Richard Roma,” who blew the roof off the theatre, as has come to be expected from her. She incorporated tension and condescension, intensity and light-heartedness, anger and apathy. She was manipulative and self-serving, embodying survival of the fittest in a world where it is every (wo)man for her/himself.
At no time were any of these strong women “playing men.” They were playing “strong women”. Lead by a strong woman in her own right, director Julie Bell Petrak clearly took the time to sit with the play and convey to her actresses that this wasn’t a gimmick – this was their characters’ real lives. Everyone’s timing with the dialogue was spot-on – rapid-fire when necessary, languid when possible. While I wish the play itself was more connected and less piecemeal, that’s a fault of Mr. Mamet, not this cast.
Peter Barbieri, Jr.’s set was static, but powerful. Once it was unveiled a few scenes in, it made sense. Costumes by Christine Mallardi were simple but effective. Business dress was the obvious theme, but each character had little touches that helped to define them.
The play is presented without intermission and runs about 85 minutes. The Dressing Room Theatre at Curtain Call is a cabaret seating venue, so bring your own dinner and drinks and settle into a night of interesting theatre. Glengarry Glen Ross runs until November 6th. Go to www.curtaincallinc.com for more info and tickets, or call the box office at (203) 461-6358.