Asolo Rep brings edgy Broadway hit 'Glengarry Glen Ross' to Sarasota: interviews

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJanuary 10, 2013 

Michael Edwards has wanted to bring "Glengarry Glen Ross," which is currently back on Broadway, to Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota since he first took over as producing artistic director seven years ago.

At the time, David Mamet's ground-breaking drama about the testosterone-fueled world of cutthroat real-estate was in the middle of its 2005 Broadway run that earned the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

Seven years ago, the Asolo had a reputation for producing classic plays and some contemporary work, but nothing as edgy as the profanity-laced "Glengarry Glen Ross."

"It's one of the most important plays of the latter half of the 20th century," Edwards said at a press conference in 2005.

"It would be a shame if the Asolo couldn't attempt that work, but it would be a disaster if we lost our audience."

Would patrons accustomed to more traditional fare "reject this brilliance just because it has profanity in it?" he mused.

Considering Asolo Rep staged a successful production of "Yentl" last season that included full-frontal male nudity, it's a safe bet theatergoers won't be scared away by a bunch of fully-clothed guys swearing.

As a precaution, though, one-half hour prior to every performance, Asolo Rep staff members will lead a discussion on the mezzanine about the strong language Mamet employs in his 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play to prepare the audience, and help put the characters' noticeably foul language into proper perspective.

"Glengarry Glen Ross," which opens Friday and runs through Feb. 28, focuses on the inner workings of a Chicago real estate operation populated by unscrupulous salesmen with Dave Moss as the chief architect of office drama.

He's played by guest artist Jay Patterson, a New York stage, television, and film veteran who appeared in the 2005 Broadway version of "Glengarry Glen Ross." He was the understudy for Moss and a couple other characters, appearing on stage nine times opposite the likes of multiple Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner Alan Alda.

"As far as cuss words, go, OK, it wouldn't be the same story without it," Patterson said during a recent interview.

"When you pit men against each other like in a cockfighting ring, deliberately creating a dog-eat-dog environment, so the men above you make money, that's what comes out. Some talk that way to just bolster their own courage to get through the day. It's like men in combat."

Patterson also has a connection to the outstanding 1992 film version of "Glengarry Glen Ross" featuring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and Ed Harris. Patterson's good friend, Jude Ciccolella, plays the detective Baylen in the movie.

"He said it as like a love fest, everyone got along wonderfully," Patterson recalled Ciccolella telling him. "Jack Lemmon actually cried when they wrapped filming and said, 'I hate to let this one go.'"

Carl Forsman, Dean of the University of North Carolina School for the Arts who directed the Asolo's winning production of "A Few Good Men" during the 2006-2007 season, returns to direct "Glengarry Glen Ross."

"I think the film of 'Glengarry' is fine but Mamet's work is so language centric, with a percussive music quality that you can't get from (stereo) speakers," Forsman said.

"The physical presence of such a powerful, galvanizing text, it's so well constructed that seeing it live is totally different."

"Glengarry Glen Ross" is the second show in the 2013 Asolo repertory season, following "You Can't Take It With You." The overall season started in November with

the patriotic powerhouse "1776," which also kicked off the Sarasota company's five-year American Character project.

"'Glengarry Glen Ross' is a play that embraces the theme of Americans engaging in commerce, an idea central to our character," Edwards said.

"It challenges the audience to consider their own personal values. To what extent do we agree or disagree with the actions of these salesmen? If we were in the same situation, what would we do?"

Details: Jan. 11-Feb. 28, Mertz Theatre in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $20-$72. Information: 941-351-8000 or www.asolorep.org.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.

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