Judging from David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross," the generation of salesmen that has come after Willy Loman doesn't believe that being well liked is what counts.
What counts is closing the sale -- period. Closing it any way you can. If that means acting friendly, so be it. If it means using outright deceit, that's OK, too.
One of the best scenes in Theatre Hopkins' production of this indictment of the real estate industry comes when hotshot salesman Richard Roma joins forces with his mentor, Shelly "the Machine" Levene, to hoodwink a client.
The client (Michael O'Connell) has had second thoughts about some property Roma sold him in Florida and has shown up under strict orders from his wife to get Roma to return their check. Almost before the meek client can get a word in, Tony Colavito's slick Roma is improvising a scene in which Tom Quinn's Levene pretends to be a rich, satisfied return customer -- an American Express executive, no less.
Never mind that an American Express exec wouldn't deign to do business with this hole-in-the-wall office. Colavito and Quinn are so quick-witted and attuned to each other's finagling, they leave the dim, deluded client sputtering.
That's not the only effective scene in director Suzanne Pratt's production. Any scene between Quinn -- a highly talented newcomer to this area -- and Colavito is charged. Watching Quinn re-enact a big sale for Colavito is practically inspirational, as the young huckster hangs on the old huckster's every word.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" is a gutsy play for Theatre Hopkins to produce. Mamet's dialogue probably contains more four-letter words in a single scene than have been spoken on this stage in its entire history. There are also more than a few racial slurs as well as what might be called the poetry of the inarticulate -- lots of stammering and "blah, blah, blahs."
But whether this style of speech rings true even for the seamiest of real estate swindlers, it rings true for Mamet's characters. And while the pace of this production could be swifter and more desperate, Theatre Hopkins' cast does just fine with the characterizations.
The plot concerns the robbery of the office. The most valuable leads -- names of prospective clients -- have been stolen. Who committed the robbery is a bit of a mystery. Why it was committed is not. All of the salesmen detest the parasitic office manager (Tom Blair), and they're all in fierce competition to rack up enough sales to win a Cadillac.
But in the final analysis, "Glengarry Glen Ross," which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, isn't about solving a robbery or winning a car. It's about survival -- of the slimiest, and not just in the real estate business. Colavito's Roma and Quinn's Levene are role models.
"We are the members of a dying breed," Roma tells Levene near the end. Would that it were so.
'Glengarry Glen Ross'
Where: Theatre Hopkins, Merrick Barn, Johns Hopkins University
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2: 15 p.m. Sundays and 7: 30 p.m. May 12; through May 12