What a piece of work is man. Shakespeare might have meant something noble and reasoning, but in David Mamet's world, men really are a "piece of work" in a more modern sense: dripping with testosterone, profanity and braggadocio. His Glengarry Glen Ross won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for its searing look at men in conflict and desperation. The heat is even more intense in barebones productions' painfully intimate take on the Mamet classic.
This hunk of bombastic masculinity is carefully picked apart by director Melissa Martin. (Yes, women generally know men better than men do.) In the close confines of the New Hazlett Theater, we watch the characters sweat, tremble and silently cry. The actors' body language is a perfect counterpoint to the jagged rhythms of Mamet's language in this tale of salesmen struggling not just for success, but for their very existence.
Leading the well-balanced cast is Bingo O'Malley as the veteran salesman on the skids, flailing for a comeback like an aging prizefighter. Opposite him (in many senses) is barebones artistic director Patrick Jordan as Roma, the former protégé turned top dog, though still willing to learn at his master's feet. The actors make this rare and brief note of friendship credible against the avalanche of avarice and mendacity.
Also laudable are Paul Ford as one shark's -- er, salesman's -- victim; Mark Thompson and Michael Fuller, in two very different portrayals of non-alpha salesmen; Jason McCune blandly evil as their office manager; and Benzy as a lurking menace of a policeman.
The production looks great, from the garish Chinese restaurant of the first act to the ramshackle office of the second act. (Gotta love the obviously fake wood paneling that just screams "sleaze.") That's courtesy of set designer Douglas McDermott. Richard Parsakian's costumes add the appropriately discordant note of respectability. Applause, too, for lighting designer Scott Nelson, sound designer Dave Bjornson and stage manager Kiera Phillips.
Even without the current economy making Glengarry especially relevant these days, getting into the skins of these guys hurts like a punch in the throat. The sales numbers from the early '80s may be dated, but this Glengarry packs a lot of power.
Glengarry Glen Ross continues through Nov. 29. New Hazlett Theater, Allegheny Center, North Side. 888-718-4253 or www.barebonesproductions.com