David Mamet's famously aggressive Glengarry Glen Ross is set in a cutthroat Chicago real estate office, a world in which competition is used to drive sales, backstabbing one's colleagues is standard practice, and clients are regularly lied to and manipulated.

In defunkt theatre's current production, two of the male roles have been cast with female actors, a decision the director's notes say "draws attention to and questions the notion that power and masculinity are synonymous."

The problem, though, is that nothing in the script has changed: These female actresses are playing men, and consistently referred to with male pronouns. This effectively changes certain dynamics without acknowledging that they've been changed, creating an uncomfortable split in the mind of the viewer. Actress Grace Carter plays the office's top agent, Richard; confusingly, Richard is simultaneously a woman and not-a-woman. In one scene, his/her dealings with an attractive male client take on sexual undertones, affecting the power dynamic in interesting ways—except that her character is still ostensibly male.

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Setting aside any deterministic ideas about men being more inherently aggressive than women, the world of Glengarry explicitly equates masculinity with power. Rather than asking how the dynamics of this world might change if women were present—and they would change, even if in no way but sexually—the show essentially just puts two women in drag, as though gender has no bearing on personality or interpersonal relationships.

The show features some fine performances, most notably from Garland Lyons and Grace Carter, but the confusing nature of its casting muddies the characters' relationships, preventing Glengarry from cohering as the ensemble piece it's meant to be.

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In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30