Glengarry Glen Ross

Cygnet Productions at the Magdelyn space, 403 NW 5th, 493-4077, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 5 pm, Wed 7 pm, through June 26, $15

A s far as American classics go, Glengarry Glen Ross is safely notched right behind the works of Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Its original performance earned David Mamet a Pulitzer for drama, and the playwright's perfectly realized film adaptation benefited from the immortal presence of Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, and Kevin Spacey. Taking on Mamet, consequently, is not unlike facing up to the class bully. You've got to train like a boxer for it, find the right sparring partners, and steel yourself for bloody noses and the shining black eyes. Glengarry Glen Ross may be the most formidable show a small theater group can attempt.

Cygnet's production is helmed by Don Alder, who also acts in one of the play's lead roles, Richard Roma. With little in the way of set design or stage direction, Alder's focus is on the players, who animate the stage with a percussive spitting match of salty dialogue. Set in the white-collar shark tank of 1980s real estate brokers, Glengarry's characters speak in bullets of terse ranting. When it's good it's relentless, a rolling tickertape of profanity and profundity. In a world where Rule Number One is ABC (Always Be Closing), salesmanship has to be virtuoso and totally manipulative. For this reason real estate brokers make a perfect target for high drama, but the performers should first of all be convincing as salesmen. Cygnet's actors make a good go of it, but the rapid-fire dialogue gets tripped over fairly often, robbing the hard sells of precious momentum. I wondered which cast member, if any, could actually talk me into buying lakefront property in Florida.

Only Jeff Gorham as the hard-ass office manager John Williamson seems completely prepared for Mametspeak, shadowboxing with demons and dealmakers, and wearing a three-piece like a suit of armor. Alder's turn as Richard Roma also shows an informed reading of the text, a good fit for a good actor. The play's seedier, more fragile supporting characters are treated with too much hesitance, too much eggshell walking. Listen up, gentlemen, this is David Mamet; pussyfooting is not an option. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT