Put a bunch of street rats in a single cage and, no surprise, they begin to eye each other to see who will eat whom.
“Glengarry Glen Rose,” David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1984 stage play, presented by Ixion Theatre on the brand-new Robin Theatre stage, is a painfully intimate look at the deep vulnerabilities of a disparate group of desperate real estate con artists as they are forced to compete with each other or lose their jobs. F-bombs fly with impunity in this piece, which has more than 55 curse words overall — more than an episode of HBO’s “Deadwood.”
The play is a true ensemble piece, character driven, performed by local actors who also dig deep to bring dark nuance to the roles they play.
A sweaty Shelly Levene, (welcome back, Daryl Thompson) starts out the action. Shelly is the elder hustler of the group, begging for a good lead, willing to promise virtually anything to be able to land just one good sale after a long streak of rejections.
Director Jeff Croff has staged this scene as the first of several two- and three-person vignettes that reveal details of the plot. This staging gives each of the seven characters much latitude to present themselves.
Shelly is confronted by the young John Williamson (Christian Thompson). John appears at first to be a mere office manager, but ultimately holds the work life of five longtime salespeople in his hot little hand. While Daryl Thomson brings non-stop animation and stream-of-consciousness delivery, Christian Thompson is deadpan and chillingly calm.
The lights dim, and we are on to a second vignette, with Adam Bright as Dave Moss and Michael Schacherbauer as George Aaronow. Dave plots to break in and steal the list of the best leads, utilizing every one of his devious salesman tricks to persuade George to do the dirty deed. Once again, there is a severe contrast of styles between these two characters. Schacherbauer stutters and stumbles his way through his character’s apprehension and wariness, while Bright blithely and coldly lays out the details of the midnight theft plot.
Once again, lights dim, and our third vignette reveals an actual sales pitch. The erudite Ricky Roma, elegantly portrayed by David Bilby, smooth-talks his way through the hesitancies of a slow-talking, semi-handicapped customer, James Lingk (Kris Vitols). At a critical moment, as the sales pitch starts to falter, Shelly reenters the scene. The seamless, perfectly scripted back-and-forth banter that ensues is a highlight of the show.
The final scene of the second act brings all the actors back out on stage (including Leo Poroshin in the featured role of Baylen, a menacing figure of few words and ominous intent). What follows is a flurry of intense, angry interactions and a powerful monologue by Shelly. The tiny stage at the Robin Theatre makes for some awkward bumping and stumbling around for this scene, but the powerful dialogue — in the hands of highly competent actors — prevails.
“Glengarry Glen Ross”
Ixion Theatre 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26; 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27 $15 Robin Theatre 1105 S. Washington Ave. (517) 775-4246, ixiontheatre.com