In racking up two parallel casts for David Mamet's bristling, funny-sad drama about beleaguered real estate salesmen, director Gary Krinke puts a twist on the play's dynamics by using an all-female cast for half the performances. The opening scene establishes the play's parameters when bigwig Blake (Rayanne Thorn) throws down the gauntlet for this month's sales contest, which pits the salesladies, already desperate to peddle cheap Florida property, against each other. Except for changing a few of the staff's first names, and substituting words like bitch, girlie
, and chickee
for guy terms, the play is remarkably similar, proving that the Darwinian survival ethos depicted by Mamet applies equally to both genders. Thorn appears only in the opening scene, but her Blake is distinctive: lanky, ultraconfident, and utterly without sympathy. Diane Davis' Shelly Levene mirrors what Jack Lemmon did for the role in the film version and is the only memorable salesperson of the cast. Davis' Levene is old-school, desperate to recapture her glory years while putting her sneering resentment for the younger generation on full display. Davis runs a fairly wide spectrum of emotions, her often-shaky voice hinting at Levene's hidden panic, the one emotion Krinke should do more to elicit.
Alas, the cast members are otherwise interchangeable. Not even hotshot sales ace Roma stands out; Nicole Wessel's perm and bright yellow coat are stylish but not aggressively flashy—just like Wessel's performance. Mamet's story is especially relevant today with respect to our current economic downturn and weak housing market, making the sales staff's plight all the more poignant. Krinke needs to amp things up to achieve more tension and the fever pitch of the strong devouring the weak. His boiler room–office set aptly bespeaks "the '70s," with one original touch: Its curved proscenium depicts squares on a Monopoly board, with the "Go to Jail" square at the pinnacle—a visual counterpart to the play's second half.Presented by and at Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton. May 22–June 27. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 6 and 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. (714) 525-4484. www.stagesoc.org