//Ad libs: A standing O

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A standing O

David Mamet’s dialogue has never been my thing. Too choppy and brittle, like someone sitting behind me in the theater poking me with twigs.

But the problem wasn’t with Mamet: I’d just never seen him done right. Last night I did, and I’m advising everyone I know to go immediately to
San Jose Stage and see “Glengarry Glen Ross.” It’s fantastic, the best production I’ve seen in a very long time. (No, I don't have a Palo Alto connection for this story. The show's so good it doesn't need one.)

These actors and this director really get Mamet’s words and cadences. Last night, the rhythm of the dialogue -- the back-and-forth, the stops and starts that make a conversation human -- was so impeccable that I found myself nodding in time, as though at a jazz concert. I kept smiling at the perfection of the pacing, all the while appreciating the power of the acting.

Afterwards, we introduced ourselves to actor Stephen Klum, a particular standout as Shelly Levene. He said several of the actors had worked together before, which contributed to the ease of their chemistry.

But a big part of the rehearsal process was simply listening to the pulse of Mamet’s play. “We had five weeks to rehearse, and we treated it like a piece of music,” he said.

It works. I would never have expected to be so captivated by a tale of conniving Chicago real estate agents.