Steven Barkhimer’s hilarious WINDOWMEN debuts this week at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (and runs through Nov. 24th). Like Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross with its ruthless real estate salesmen, Barkhimer gives us a glimpse into the shady fish business. Like Mamet, he experienced it first hand, working at a wholesale fish market right out of college. Unlike Mamet, Barkhimer’s characters have heart.
Director Brett Marks finds just the right tone for the piece, balancing the outrageous humor with the very real moral dilemma faced by the new guy, played to nervous perfection by Alex Pollock. Poor Kenny, he has a degree in philosophy but here he is in the middle of the night, shoulder to shoulder with thugs, fishermen and haulers. Their day begins at 4:30 A.M. to sell what’s been loaded off the boats to retail stores, restaurants and the occasional hustler (Nael Nacer in top form).
Barkhimer’s set-up is ingenious: As Kenny learns the ropes (and the codes), so do we. Just about the time Kenny catches on, so do we. What a coup, to keep us on our toes…then make us invested in the machinery of the plot. Kenny’s mentor/cheerleader is a rough, raw veteran of the fish game who advances the plot by introducing Kenny’s moral dilemma. Brandon Whitehead is sensational as the irascible, street smart wheeler dealer behind the window, in sole charge of sales, receipts and accounting.
Daniel Berger-Jones supplies laughs for his constant advice and his uninvited visits to the office. Will Lyman gives a nicely nuanced performance as the savvy owner of the operation, a tough boss with a soft spot for the college kid (and an eye for sloppy bookkeeping). He gets a kick out of quoting Socrates to the philosophy major (not to mention a half quote from G.B Shaw about youth being wasted on the young) and he pulls of the unexpected ending.