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Photograph: Jan GravesDEATH OF A SALESPERSON Shelton, right, dares Parry to comment on her outfit.

Glengarry Glen Ross

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An arbitrary soul, David Mamet. The implacable hard-ass dramatist who’s scarcely said a kind public word on any topic is a noted control freak about his words. Yet when Redtwist Theatre asked for permission to cast his macho real-estate drama with women in some of the male roles, the response (via his agent, natch) was, “Mr. Mamet does not dictate the gender of the characters, as long as not a single word of his text is changed.”

And so Redtwist has clearance to experiment; in this “gender-blind” staging, four of the male characters in Mamet’s story of a bungled office heist are portrayed by female actors. Does the risk pay off? Not particularly. Does Glengarry Glen Ross still work like gangbusters? It does indeed.

With actor Brian Parry in the driver’s seat—his work as desperate huckster Shelly Levene has thrumming, almost musical syncopation—Adam Webster’s brisk, modest production takes a straightforward approach to the text. So even though Jacqueline Grandt’s Ricky Roma is more of a clammy WASP than a smoldering cigar-butthole, and even though Debra Rodkin plays patsy George Aaronow as a hysterical soccer mom rather than pathetic fall guy—neither performance feels in touch with the hardheaded material—all the actors ultimately get out of the way of the play itself. At the end of the evening, you can still hear its menacing cadences in your head.

If you’re one of the 23 Americans who understand the recent mortgage and housing crises, feel free to let us know if this tale of predatory agents has extra-current relevance. In the meantime, the rest of us can enjoy the one great female performance: Erin Shelton plays the ball-busting office manager as an expressionless totem pole, and, yes, she closes the deal.

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