glengarry glen ross seattle u

Glengarry Glen Ross-Seattle U

“I wasn’t cut out to be a thief. I was cut out to be a salesman.”

David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross seems to ask: what’s the difference?

Seattle U’s production of David Mamet’s Pulitzer-winning Glengarry Glen Ross is acutely aware of its optics, and understandably so. Mamet is a notorious lightning rod for controversy, having frequently drawn public ire for his crass conservatism and refusal to shy away from ugly subject matter over the course of his career. Director Brennan Murphy opens the program with a note containing a simple plea – view our play with an open mind. It is with an open mind, then, that I can confidently say: Seattle U knocked it out of the park.

Glengarry Glen Ross is a play about bad men doing bad things. Set in a real estate office in the 1970s(ish), the play’s action follows a group of cutthroat salesmen willing to do anything and everything to secure a sale and, if all goes according to plan, climb to the coveted top spot of the office leaderboard. The plot takes a turn when two of the firm’s salesmen, believing themselves to be the most downtrodden of the bunch, concoct a plan to rob the office of their best contracts and defect to a competing office. 

Under Murphy’s direction, Glengarry Glen Ross is a kaleidoscopic, disco-steeped peek into a bygone culture whose Reaganistic impulses still ring eerily prescient. Reading the play as anything but an incisive critique of the hustle culture and machismo promoted by the laissez-faire capitalism of the 70s would be doing the text a disservice, Mamet’s personal conservatism aside. Don’t get me wrong – Glengarry Glen Ross is a vulgar play, filled to the brim with misogyny and more f-bombs than ever before seen on stage. But the play won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason, and Seattle U’s brilliant production brings those inspired elements to the forefront, perhaps reminding us of all that we should leave in the past.

Glengarry Glen Ross’s student cast shines, delivering performances of callous, manly men with such aplomb and humor. The play has found two stars in particular in Isabella Martinez’s portrayal of Richard Roma, the hyper-masculine top earner of the office, and in Ben Freeman’s performance as Shelley Levene, a flailing businessman whose frequent tirades land him in hot water time and time again. Martinez’s and Freeman’s performances do the remarkable job of not shying away from depraved 70s machismo while giving a little levity to what could otherwise read as a little too dark to watch. Martinez in particular helps to this end, both in her excellent comedic timing and in her smart casting as the role of Richard. Playing the role of Roma as a badass woman in a pantsuit, well, rocks, but it’s her acting chops that take the performance over the top. 

Glengarry Glen Ross soars in no small part thanks to Brennan Murphy’s fantastic direction, all underscored by fabulous stage design, costuming, and lighting work. The action never drags thanks to some dynamic blocking and genuinely inspired lighting work – I had more than a few oooooh moments when the lighting crew would find yet another novel way to highlight the action on stage. The cast was decked in remarkably accurate, head to toe 70s wear, helping to sell them as bonafide 20th century salesmen while also giving some visual appeal to the drama. What with the play centering around men yelling at one another for 80 minutes, Seattle U’s theatre crew rightfully understood the need for a little levity in the form of some truly groovy scene transitions scored by the likes of Donna Summer and the Pointer Sisters; the show struck a perfect balance between these two tones, making it all but impossible to not have fun. In the wrong hands, Glengarry Glen Ross could easily devolve into a droll ordeal of bland men yelling about business; Seattle U’s production, thankfully, clears this bar with flying colors.

Glengarry Glen Ross: why now? Why not just leave the past in the past, misogynistic expletives and all? Watching the production for the first time in 2024, I was struck by how much things have changed… and how much has remained the same. Mamet’s play takes greed to its absolute extremes, and it’s in this we see a sort of twisted mirror of our own culture, even 40 years after it was penned. Seattle U’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross hits all the right notes. It’s a thoughtful, riotous, punchy romp through a bygone culture whose echoes reverberate to this day. And let’s not forget, it reminds us of the best part of the 70s, too: disco, baby!

If you’re looking for a good time and want to support some stellar student art, do yourself a favor and go see Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glenn Ross, Lee Center for the Arts at Seattle University. 905-12th Ave, Seattle WA 98122 (12th and Marion) Feb 14, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23,24 – 7:30 pm, matinée performance Feb 24 – 2 pm. Tickets are inexpensive, at the Box office (206) 296-2244 $6 for all students. General Public $12.

Tickets: https://www.seattleu.edu/artsci/arts/calendar-of-events/glengarry-glen-ross/

Parking is available in the Lee Center parking lot or on the street.

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