Sept. 26 2012 01:06 AM

La Jolla Playhouse's verbally brutal Mamet show tops our coverage of local productions

Peter Maloney (left) and Johnny Wu
Photo by Craig Schwartz

With Romneyomics making the campaign rounds and the divide between the haves and the have-nots a rhetorical flash point, could there be a better time to revisit the Reaganomics era of David Mamet's scathing Glengarry Glen Ross? The 1984 Pulitzer winner about the desperate men at a Chicago real-estate office is a grim reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

La Jolla Playhouse's Christopher Ashley directs a Glengarry that hasn't aged in its cynicism or verbal brutality. The slow death of its salesmen, at least internally, remains morbidly fascinating, even as Mamet's strafing F-bombs predominate. The central figures are by now archetypes to anyone who's seen Glengarry Glen Ross before or remembers the fine 1992 film adaptation. They seem suspended in purgatorial time, forced to atone for not closing enough deals: blustering Dave Moss (James Sutorius), who translates his resentment into the pivotal scheme to burglarize the realty office and steal the coveted "premium leads"; George Aaronow (Ray Anthony Thomas), beaten down and running out of hope; and Shelly Levene (Peter Maloney), a "legend" past his prime with just enough faith left in him to keep from doing the Dutch (Mamet-speak for suicide). Even the comparatively successful Richard Roma (Manu Narayan) is in fierce competition not only with his fellow agents, but also with a creeping part of himself that wants to F-bomb it all.

Narayan's performance as Roma, which manages gestures of tenderness toward the pitiable Shelly, is the stoutest among a cast that also includes Johnny Wu as office manager John Williamson and Jeff Marlow as a sad-sack client of Roma's. The thing is, Mamet's incendiary script itself overwhelms those speaking his words. The play is caught up in the cadence and sting of its exchanges and denunciations. Mamet, who once toiled in a Chicago real-estate office, is always on your mind. Even sympathetic Shelly is just the least bit elusive to us.

The Playhouse staging nevertheless is on target. Ashley's taut direction is complemented by two superb sets (the Chinese restaurant and the tumbledown office) by Todd Rosenthal. You can almost taste the gimlet and feel the chalkboard dust on your fingertips.

Glengarry Glen Ross runs through Oct. 21 at La Jolla Playhouse. $36 and up;

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The 39 Steps: A spy tries to stop military secrets from getting out of the United Kingdom in this romantic comedy based on the Hitchcock movie. Opens in preview on Sept. 27 at the MiraCosta College Theatre in Oceanside. Regular performances start Sept. 28.

The Exit Interview: Professor Dick Fig is canned from his job in this sharp comedy about politics, religion, the media and truth. Opens in previews Sept. 29 at the Lyceum Space at Horton Plaza, Downtown. Regular performances start Oct. 5.

Good People: A lower-class South Boston woman loses her cashier job and goes to her old boyfriend, a doctor, for help. Opens Sept. 29 at The Old Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in Balboa Park.

Jekyll & Hyde: The musical version of the classic struggle between good and evil is presented by Broadway San Diego and runs from Oct. 2 through 7 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown.

Julia: In a world-premiere political thriller set in 1970s San Diego, the wife of a Mexican presidential candidate is drawn to her chauffer. Presented by Ion Theatre, it opens in previews on Sept. 29 at BLK BOX @ 6th & Penn Theatre. Regular performances start Oct. 6.

Kita y Fernanda: Two girls—one a have, the other a have-not—grow up together under the same roof in Texas. Opens in previews Sept. 27 at the 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. Regular performances start Oct. 5.

The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek: In a small town during the Great Depression, a speeding train beckons a couple of bored teens. Opens Sept. 29 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.

Now Playing

Richard III: King Edward IV's malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England's throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare's history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.

As You Like It: If it's a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds: An abusive mother makes life difficult for her two daughters in this Pulitzer Prize-winning 1964 play. Runs through Sept. 30 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido.

Scandal in the St. Florian Valley: Chronos Theatre Group presents an absurdist Slovenian farce written in 1908 about the Devil's visit to a small town. Through Sept. 30 at Victory Theatre in Sherman Heights.

The Underpants: In Steve Martin's adaptation of a 1910 farce, a man is flummoxed when his wife's underwear simply won't stay on. Runs through Sept. 30 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.

Sweeney Todd: A barbaric barber slices and dices his customers, and his pal the baker bakes them into her pies. Yum! Through Oct. 6 at the Moonlight Stage in Vista.

Perfect Wedding: In the opener of Scripps Ranch Theatre's 34th season, a man wakes up next to a naked, unfamiliar woman on his wedding day. Runs through Oct. 7 at Scripps Ranch Theatre.

Same Time, Next Year: Once every 12 months, George and Doris, who are married, but to other people, meet for a tryst. Fun with 1970s-era infidelity! Through Oct. 7 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad.

Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir: It's 1958 in Greenwich Village, and a singer and his band are performing their last New York gig before skedaddling out of town. Presented as part of La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls program, it runs through Oct. 10 at Martinis Above Fourth in Hillcrest.

Pippin: A boy prince searches for the meaning of life in this re-imagined version of the 1971 musical. Runs through Oct. 14 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.

Allegiance—A New American Musical: Star Trek's George Takei stars in this remembrance of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Through Oct. 21 on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.

Glengarry Glen Ross: David Mamet's searing play follows a handful of real-estate salesmen pitted against one another in a lose-and-your-fired contest. Through Oct. 21 at La Jolla Playhouse.

Mistakes Were Made: In a West Coast premiere, an embattled B-list theater producer attempts to mount an epic show about the French Revolution. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through Oct. 21 at Old Town Theatre.

Doris and Me: A man simply can't get enough of midcentury singer and actor Doris Day, who, incidentally, is still alive at 88 years old. Through Oct. 23 at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido.

Rent: Here's your chance to see this musical, about young adults struggling to survive in New York, if you missed it recently the Birch North Park Theatre. Through Oct. 28 at Welk Resort Theatre in Escondido.

miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 25 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown.

Once Upon a Wedding: Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13.

Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill.


See all events on Tuesday, Dec 6