The Cleveland Free Times

Theater : Glam It, Mamet : Gwen Hairy Gwen Gloss , a stylish Glengarry
Articles / Arts
Date: Feb 25, 2004 - 03:33 PM
By Anastasia Pantsios
THE PURSUITS and pastimes of women have usually been regarded as
trivial, while those of men are assigned weight and importance.
There's nothing more intrinsically noble in real-estate scams than
in hairdressing.
Yet David Mamet's play Glengarry Glen Ross , about a team of
real-estate salesmen, though it has its comic aspects, has a hard
core of seriousness and desperation. Transposing the pushy,
profanity-laced speeches of those salesmen to a beauty salon and the
world of hairdressing, as Minnesota comedian-writer Laurel Osterkamp
has done in her parody, Gwen Hairy Gwen Gloss , exposes the pure
silliness of Mamet's conceits. She's inserted entire chunks of
Mamet's dialogue verbatim into the mouths of three hairstylists and
their scheming viper of a salon manager, changing only the subject
they're addressing. In doing so, she sets up a dialogue about the
lives of men and women. Though her characters may seem at first more
ridiculous, they're also more human and sympathetic than Mamet's.
Bad Epitaph Theater Company's current production of Gwen Hairy Gwen
Gloss takes place in a hair salon, literally. It's being produced in
the chic upstairs styling room of Zen Salon and Spa in Ohio City,
with the audience seated in the corner by the windows, and much of
the action taking place at the styling stations. It's a tactic also
being used by Charenton Theater in its current production of the
Mamet play, which it's touring to makeshift “office” spaces around
the city. The simultaneous productions provide theatergoers with an
opportunity to compare the two and observe the interesting
crosscurrents they set up.
Glengarry 's old-school salesman, Shelly, becomes lost-in-the-'80s
hairdresser Shelly, played by Alison Hernan. Hernan, who opens the
play to a roar of laughter when she storms into the salon sporting a
lavender coat, red leg warmers and one of those flouncy pastel
sweatshirt dresses that were popular around 1985, is the heart of
Gwen Hairy . Her Shelly is an extravagant caricature, but as Hernan
plays her, she's also deeply affecting.
In fact, all three stylists are played with so much warmth and
believability that you root for all to win the no-win contest set up
by the “corporate office in Beachwood.” Renita Jablonski's Celine is
earnest and befuddled, while Magdalyn Donnelly's sleek, black-clad
Audrey is the trendy gal who's clearly more in touch than her
colleagues with the contemporary clientele. Donnelly plays Audrey
with laid-back charm as she bedazzles the young personal assistant
to Denise Dufala with a glib, existentialist pitch (taken almost
verbatim from Mamet's original play) to cadge her boss's private
phone number. But Donnelly makes Audrey seem like a genuine people
person, rather than someone who's just on the make.
The villains here are the conniving salon manager and “ECB,” or
“Executive Corporate Bitch,” who swoops in from to browbeat the
stylists. The character is so over-the-top — she attempts to
humiliate Seline by reminding her that while Seline drives a '68
Pinto, ECB arrived in a $125,000 Hummer — that it's hard to comment
on Kellie McIvor's performance, which couldn't be anything but one-
dimensional. However, McIvor does double duty as Dufala's mousy
personal assistant, playing the two very different characters so
convincingly you'll check your program twice before believing it's
the same actress. Only Dana Textoris's Vicki lacks real impact,
partly because the character is written without nuance, but also
because Textoris seems too young to play this manipulative character.
The plot, taken directly from Glengarry , involves the pressure on
the hairdressers to get “referrals,” the “leads” of Glengarry . The
one who gets the most referrals gets to use the titular hair
products that are off-limits to the others. The salon is robbed; the
products are stolen. Who did it? In attempting to tailor the
original play's plot to a new situation, Osterkamp has created a
plot hole (concerning a Flock of Seagulls roadie whose referrals
Shelly believes will jump-start her career) so big you could drive a
fleet of Hummers through it. By that point, though, you'll be too
caught up in rooting for these sympathetic characters to care.
This production is short, just under an hour, and vigorously paced.
Director Nick Koesters has used his ready-made set effectively, and
the costumes, designed by Hernan, vividly clarify the characters'
A Review of Laurel Osterkamp's play, Gwen Hairy Gwen Gloss