David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” has lost none of its appeal since it first hit the stage in the early 1980s.
“It’s such raw, red-meat material,” said actor Rick Foucheux, of Silver Spring, who plays the part of Shelly Levene, one of four salesmen snapping at each other’s throats in a Chicago real estate office.
The Round House Theatre in Bethesda is presenting the play from Feb. 6 through March 3 with performances every day except Monday.
“It’s really an American play, it’s about winning ... and it’s a distinctly male play,” said director Mitchell Hébert.
The salesmen already compete with each other to triumph as top seller in the office, using any means necessary to close a deal, including duping and deceiving customers.
The pressure ratchets up even higher after managers impose on them a draconian sales contest — the top two performers get to keep working, while the bottom two lose their jobs.
Making the shark tank even more toxic is office manager John Williamson (KenYatta Rogers), who controls which salesmen gets the best sales leads, which are for two developments called Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms.
“They’re angry, articulate, desperate characters,” Hébert said. “Do they come out alive or don’t they come out alive?”
Mamet, who sold real estate in Chicago himself at one time, is known for his clipped, fast-moving and sometimes profane dialogue.
“There’s a heightened reality on stage — the play appears to be realistic, but it’s actually more of an opera,” Hébert said. “Mamet wrote arias, long passages of incredible speeches — Shakespeare would not be dissimilar.”
But the play is “also funny in a blistering kind of way,” he said.
Levene, an older salesman deep into a prolonged sales slump, asks Williamson for access to the promising Glenngarry and Glen Ross leads but Williamson refuses.
Instead he steers Levene toward people that Williamson already knows don’t have the money or intent to buy land, setting in motion Levene’s desperate attempts to get back on top and keep his job.
“These guys are ugly, and for an actor, you have to be brave to share the ugliest part of yourself,” Foucheux said. “[The director] has been prodding me to break out of my comfort zone and to go to an ugly, ugly place. He’s been holding my feet to the fire.”
Both Foucheux and Hébert have been acting for decades out of the Broadway limelight in the Washington region, which has become known for its rich and diverse theater offerings.
Al Pacino brought some Hollywood star power to the 30th anniversary production of “Glengarry Glen Ross” in New York, which ended its run in late January.
Pacino played salesman Ricky Roma in the 1992 “Glengarry Glen Ross” movie and played Shelly in the recent theater production.
However, the Round House Theatre production is every bit as good if not better than the Broadway version, said Foucheux and Hébert.
“This is not a lesser product,” Hébert said. “We’re professional people who [have opted] not do the New York thing.”
“We’re fiercely proud [of our work],” he said.