Timeless Greed is Coming to MRT with Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry
presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
MRT Facebook Page

Directed by Charles Towers
Listing by Craig Idlebrook

Greed may not be good, as fictional stockbroker Gordon Gekko once famously espoused, but it never goes out of style.

In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gekko’s ode to greed was devastating to hear for Americans who had just suffered through insider trading and junk bond scandals.  The late eighties also produced Glengarry Glen Ross, a razor-sharp play by David Mamet which examines greed on the micro-level, as bottom-feeding real estate agents in Buffalo lie, cheat and steal to sell tracts of land in Florida.  While focusing on everyday financial crimes, Mamet creates an allegory for Wall Street greed that resonated with Main Street theatergoers in the late eighties.

The play’s warning about the corrosive effects of capitalism still draws in theatergoers today, as well.  Recently, Al Pacino spearheaded a Broadway revival of the play, and it now will be playing at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) in Lowell this spring. 

MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers believes that, if anything, Mamet’s play hits closer to home now than it did before, as the U.S. economy continues to grapple with the fallout of a 2008 financial meltdown which was spurred by fraudulent loans and toxic real estate deals.

“In this small world, it’s a metaphoric world, Mamet tells a story, but….we see it happen big-time” in real life, Towers says.

This will be Towers’ second time directing this play, and he enjoys being able to work with the material once again.  Although rehearsals have just begun for the MRT production, Towers already notes the difference in how he relates to these characters who are stuck in a dog-eat-dog world.

“When I was younger, it was more about the swagger,” Towers says.  “But the humanity beneath their swagger, and the desperation to survive, I find really powerful now.”

In adding Glengarry Glen Ross to the MRT lineup, Towers is aware he’s dealing with material that is familiar to many theatergoers who have seen past productions or the popular movie.  They may be in for a surprise by this production, especially since the most-quoted scene of the play (“Coffee’s for closers only”) actually doesn’t exist in the play’s script; it was added by Mamet to beef up the movie.  Towers has never seen the movie, and he plans to avoid it, believing that the power of Mamet’s script is best experienced in a live setting.

“Its power, and this includes the profanity, increases when the audience is in the same room as the actors,” Towers says.

Theatergoers are forewarned that Mamet laces profanity throughout his script to create an authentic world where men grapple for power.  It’s the same language recorded by the Watergate tapes in Nixon’s Oval Office; the president’s salty language at times shocked Americans in the seventies just as much as his abuse of power.  For Towers, who has worked in a factory and lumberyards, the profanity just blends into the landscape, and he hardly notices it.  He says it’s part of the poetry that Mamet creates.

“That’s the world that he hears and he’s trying to be true to it,” Towers says.

Glengarry Glen Ross will be playing from April 25th through May 19th at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.

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