Selling is a killer business.

But it can make for some spellbinding theater.

Think David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross," Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," Barry Levinson's delicious flick "Tin Men."

Now part-time Tucsonan Warren G. Bodow has tackled the subject in his play, "Fronting the Order," which has its world premiere at Beowulf Alley Theatre.

Bodow was an encyclopedia salesman when he was in college, and he mined that experience for this story of four men, a team of salesmen, in a strange town trying to run a cheesy encyclopedia scam.

Sometimes, if a mediocre script gets a great production, the play can shine. But if a good one gets a murky production, well, it's hard to see through the fog.

"Fronting," directed by Sheldon Metz, is a murky production. There's some off-kilter staging, and the acting doesn't give much life to the play or the characters.

So, it's a bit hard to tell if the arc is missing or if the needed suspense was diluted or just not there.

But it is clear that Bodow's play holds promise. Though it is a tad cliché-heavy and shy on deep characterization, it's laced with some funny lines and enough duplicity and heartbreak to keep it interesting.

However, it is tough to cheer (or jeer) for any of the characters - you feel you barely know them. And though we understand what is at stake in the story, it lacks the tension that is needed to build to any climax.

"Fronting the Order" has some potential - but a few more workshop readings with more emphasis on characters and script might make this an easier sell.


"Fronting the Order"

• By: Warren G. Bodow.

• Presented by: Beowulf Alley Theatre and Wellangoode Productions.

• Director: Sheldon Metz.

• When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday, Wednesday and April 22-23; 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Beowulf Alley, 11 S. Sixth Ave.

• Tickets: $19.

• Reservations/information: or 882-0555.

• Running time: About 2 hours, 15 minutes, with one intermission.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at or 573-4128.