Play Examines Workplace Dynamics


Seldom would a character release the four-letter expletive “f–ck” five consecutive times on stage without drawing a stunned silence from the audience. Such is the language of the play “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet. The Middlebury Department of Theatre and Dance put on the play, directed by Professor of Acting Richard Romagnoli, last weekend at the Seeler Studio Theatre.

The abundance of profane language in the play, however, does little to detract from its power. The play opens on three salesmen, Shelley Levene (Quincy Simmons ’18), George Aaronow (Sebastian LaPointe ’18), Dave Moss (Kevin Benscheidt ’17.5) and their office manager Joan Williamson (Sophia Donavan-LaFuente ’18) as they’re subject abusive “motivation” from Blake (Galen Fastie ’20), a recent hiree brought on to help increase sales revenue. The audience learns that the winner of the monthly sales competition, who seems likely to be Ricki Roma (Eliza Renner ’18), the most smooth-talking salesman with the most promising leads, will win a Cadillac, while the two with the lowest sales will be fired. The high-stakes, cut-throat portrayal of the corporate sales environment is immediately established.

Director Romagnoli’s recasting of Levene, Williamson and Roma as female characters in a play originally written for an all-male cast introduces a new layer of interpretation of the play. For example, certain insults such as “go home to your children” may be interpreted differently when directed at a woman. This production sought to offer women actors “characters who expressed the full range of initiative, fearlessness, even aggression to achieve an objection, free of the behavioral codes imposed by polite society,” according to Romagnoli. In this way, the student actors were challenged to “liberate themselves from internalized ‘feminine’ behavior… [in] a realm of expression typically denied them in virtually all theatrical literature.”

“We were not interested in dressing the women like men,” said Mira Veikley, a visiting assistant professor of Theatre who designed the costumes for the play. “We wanted to create a world in which power was not related to gender.”

Veikley also said that the clothing of the characters reflected their mental states and status of power in the office. Darker colors emphasized the presence of characters who felt empowered, while characters of lower status in the office, such as Levene and Aaronow, were dressed in lighter colors to make them appear washed out and overwhelmed by their situation.

When Levene, an aging salesman who lives in the faded glory of her past success, finally makes a new sale, she wears dark beige-colored pants to the office. This choice echos the confidence that stiletto wearing Roma projected in the first act when she maneuvered a large sale of her own with pseudo-philosophical statements. Both scenes depict the two salesmen at points of high energy in their careers.

The parallel between Roma and Levene strengthens as the audience learns that Levene was Roma’s mentor in the sales business.

“Roma is a kind of shadow of what Levene used to be, and I like to think that Levene is also a look into Roma’s future if she continues in this cut-throat business,” Professor Veikley said.

One of Roma’s last lines to Williamson concerns Levene: “My stuff is mine, [Levene’s] stuff is ours. I’m taking half of her commissions.” Despite their seemingly intimate mentor-mentee relationship, getting out ahead of one’s coworkers seems to be the ultimate goal. As stated by the chalkboard on stage right, the fundamental rule of the sales world is A.B.C. — always be closing. Manipulative language towards clients seems encouraged and verbal abuse among coworkers is both frequent and tolerated.

“Mamet floats a romantic view of men coexisting in a specific business culture where survival depends on mutual care and collaboration,” Romagnoli said. “The author’s view is illusory. The environment is Darwinian.”

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