I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Always Be Closing
Real Estate in Chicago is dog eat dog in David Mamet's classic play Glengarry Glen Ross. Written for an all-male cast, the play pits salesmen against each other in an overwhelming sausage fest of wheeling and dealing. The Actor's Pulse studio in Redfern has decided to cast their version of this play with a mixed-gender cast noting that in this day and age women are very much a part of the workforce as well.
Now one thing I'm quite particular on is theatre starting on time. Even with this performance, where the audience feels like a supportive one full of friends, family and studio alumni, I still don't think it's appropriate to advertise a start time of 7pm and not start the show until around 7.30pm. I believe this may have happened due to some advertising mix-ups, where the show was quoted in a few places as starting at 7.30pm, but to an outsider, it did seem a bit haphazard and disorganised, rather than portraying the studio in the best light.
That said, when I finally make it into my seat, I was pleasantly surprised by the detail of the small, intimate set and the actors onstage already working away at their leads. The performers were completely engrossed in the world of Glengarry Glen Ross as we entered. As the action begins, we quickly learn that this is the world of real estate in the 1980s, where salespeople are working their darndest to get their name on the leaderboard. Aaronow (Rebecca Leedham) and Levine (Katherine Munro) are struggling, whilst Moss (Livio De Michiel) is a not-very-close second to the sales maverick of the office, Roma (Tony Barea). As if things weren't already bad enough for Levine and Aaronow, Blake (Jena Luhrmann) from head office pops in to tell them that they have a week to save their jobs by making sales.
Billy Milionis's (Director and Founder of The Actor's Pulse) choice to take on Mamet in this fashion is a bold one that I'm not sure quite pays off. This isn't a modern take on a classic, because it's still set in the 1980's and I felt like there are better pieces out there to showcase the talent of the actors. However, the work Milionis has done with the actors on the piece ensures that the play is entertaining, if not leaving me a bit empty at the end. I also found it a bit problematic to watch a show where women had been cast in male roles, but the two out of four salespeople cast as women were the two salespeople found at the bottom of the leaderboard and struggling at work.
Claire Brew has a nice character arc as the office manager, Williamson. She's harsh when she needs to be, but there's a nice empathy and vulnerability there when required. Her Williamson is the most fully rounded of the characters. Tony Barea has Roma's greasy, underhand sales mannerisms down, but doesn't quite make the grade as the high-flying top-sales man. There are some accent issues and a lack of swagger in Barea's interpretation that makes it hard to believe that this guy is on top of the board ahead of Moss or Levine. Katherine Munro gives a strong performance as Levine, presenting a fully formed character at the point of doing something desperate. There are times where she is slightly off voice, but when she is grounded and strong, her Levine is powerful.
Rebecca Leedham is kind of adorable as Aaronow, the worrywart who is not very good at the job. Her nervous persona and about-to-burst-into-tears vibes are a breath of fresh air in a piece that is otherwise so full of testosterone it's about to explode. Casey Richards shows good emotional life as Lingk and although he doesn't get much stage time, he's definitely an intriguing presence. Livio De Michiel certainly plays the frustration of Moss well, although tends to be a bit one-note the whole way through which starts to just read like he is an angry man. A little light and shade would help to realise Moss as a real human being. Jena Luhrmann has the most iconic speech in the show as Blake and its refreshing to see her tiny stature ruthlessly stick it to the office workers. Aidan Morissey and Dean Tuttle don't get much stage time at all, but when they are onstage, they do a solid job.
All in all, this production of a rather dated David Mamet piece doesn't set the world on fire, but it is enjoyable. The actors obviously work hard and enjoy their craft and I noted that for many of them it was their theatrical debuts, which definitely means that they're on the road to success in future productions. I look forward to seeing more of their work around Sydney.