‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ cast is incredible

By on September 14, 2016
(Left to right) Tim Riggs, Kenneth Seigh, Noel Smith, Kevin Ditzler, and Sean Young in Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.” (Photo by Robert R. Devonshire Jr.)

(Left to right) Tim Riggs, Kenneth Seigh, Noel Smith, Kevin Ditzler, and Sean Young in Ephrata Performing Arts Center’s “Glengarry Glen
Ross.” (Photo by Robert R. Devonshire Jr.)

I first saw the film adaptation of “Glengarry Glen Ross” while I was living in Maine. The movie had been out for a couple years and it instantly went on my list of all-time favorites. The all-star film cast includes Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey.

When I would return to Lancaster County to visit friends and family I always drove past the Glen-Gery Brick facility on Route 61 in Shoemakersville. My girlfriend (and eventual wife) and I would always laugh as we passed and one of us would say, “Glen-Gery Glen brick,” making a reference to the movie. Telling the story now, I see it really isn’t that funny, but it was just something we always did. At that point on our 12-hour trip we knew we were only an hour away from home. Maybe the humor was partly founded on being delusional from the many miles on the road.

Either way, the film and the brick manufacturer are forever ingrained in our memory, so I instantly remembered those car rides when EPAC announced they would be performing the 1983 David Mamet play “Glengarry Glen Ross” (which spawned the movie).

With what may be one of the best cast productions of EPAC’s history, “Glengarry Glen Ross” opened at the Sharadin Bigler on Thursday, Sept. 8. This limited engagement will run only two weeks, with four shows this weekend.

When “Glengarry Glen Ross” opens, we find ourselves amid a conversation between two men at a Chinese restaurant. Shelly Levene (Ken Seigh) is practically begging, and sometime belittling, office manager John Williamson (Tim Riggs) for better sales leads as he has yet to close a real estate deal in order to get onto the monthly leader board — the winner gets a Cadillac and the loser gets canned.

The world has changed around the venerable Williamson and he is being left behind. In the next scene we meet George Aaranow (John Kleimo) as he is dropped into a plot of revenge created by fellow salesman Dave Moss (Herb Stump). Moss is fed up with the agency he works for and wants to steal the leads in order to sell them to a competitor.

At the opening of the second act, the theatre is trashed, literally. A break in has occurred at the real estate office. Of course we expect Aaranow to be the culprit. Enter Richard Roma (Sean Young), who is a bit of a shyster. Roma is at the top of the sales board and will stop at nothing — including lying to clients and other unscrupulous measures — to stay at the top. Levene, “The Machine,” has finally broken his streak of failure and closed a sale worth enough to rocket him into second place on the sales board. He jumps ahead of Roma when his client, James Lingk (Kevin Ditzler), comes to the office looking to rescind his agreement to purchase a property. If all hell hadn’t broken loose already, it surely would now. In the meantime, all of the staff are being interrogated by detective Baylen (Noel Smith).

“Glengarry Glen Ross” is a comedic and harsh look, not only the business world, but at life in general. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is set in Chicago in 1983, but its message of human culpability resonates today as we deal with forms of corruption in banks, government, and education. Director Michael Swanson has pulled no punches and inspired a cast of strong men to transform into these powerful, yet flawed, characters.

I appreciate Swanson’s decision to stick to the original 1983 script. The play received some grief for its portrayal of the Indian culture by using the word Patel in a derogatory manner. I didn’t find it offensive — of course I’m not Indian, so my vote doesn’t count — but enough people did in 2004 that Mamet considered removing the lines from the San Francisco revival of the show. This is all part of what EPAC delivers: theatre that matters. The theatre both pushes the envelope of mainstream thought and entertains to the highest level.

With “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Swanson has assembled a group of actors who command their characters expertly. Kleimo conjures his inner Dustin Hoffman to create a nervous, uneasy Aaranow. Smith, whose time is limited on the stage, uses every second — line or not — to make Baylen’s presence known. Seigh, who has also played Roma in a previous run of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” is The Machine. Riggs, as usual, gets so far into character I forget I’ve seen him in such EPAC productions as “The Elephant Man.” I was again impressed with Young’s performance (last seen in “Assassins” and “Sunday in the Park with George”). His signature delivery is calm, poised, and always in control; while never (noticeably) missing a line, he speaks with a soft urgency punctuated by points of brilliant resilience. And welcome back, Herb Stump. Last seen in “The Odd Couple,” Stump has returned to Pennsylvania after 40 years and looks to be a regular (and promising) addition to the cast of EPAC players.

EPAC’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” is a riveting, hilarious, and intentionally troublesome tale told by a formidable cast of actors under the tutelage of a gifted director. The two-act play flew by, leaving me wanting more. I may just have to go back and see it again.

To purchase tickets to “Glengarry Glen Ross,” visit ephrataperformingartscenter.com, or call 733-7966.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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