Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: (Ottawa) Glengarry Glen Ross

Sleaze of The Deal
by Jim Murchison 

The Acting Company has mounted the classic play of the high pressure world of sales and salesmanship by David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross. The nice thing about being a new company with old contacts is that you can put together a cast of veteran favourites and do the stuff you love and it’s clear that the cast relishes this material.

I actually have to admit I don’t know the play at all having never read it or seen anyone else produce it, but like most people I am very familiar with the film although it has been a while since I last saw it. I believe the film is a little longer than the play and the time races by in the stage version, particularly the first act which clocks in at barely 30 minutes. The first thing that one hears from successful salespeople is that they want to make you happy, that they’re doing you a favour. They’re usually selling you fun or freedom or peace of mind.

Playwright David Mamet exposes the other side of desperation and survival from the salesperson's point of view and because it is a 1984 work it is all men. I expect that the realm of high pressure sales is still male dominated. The team of salesmen in this play are desperate to close and they - to use their own words - don’t give a fuck how they do it.

David Magladry designed the set and lighting. The setting is made up of a nice quiet restaurant where the deals and private bitching are done in act I and an office in mad disarray which can best be described as the scene of the crime in act II. 

Tom Charlebois is the fading Shelly (The Machine) Levine scratching and clawing to try to restore his glory year’s reputation in a domain where you’re only as good as your last sale. You feel the hurt and anger in his performance. Steve Martin plays with an arrogant swagger as Ricky Roma, an aggressive dickhead that has mentored under Levine to become the top banana.

Dave Moss played with vindictive bile by John Muggleton is desperate for revenge and tries to hatch a plan with George Aaranow played with sweat-filled trepidation by Chris Ralph. The interplay between the two is often funny and pathetic simultaneously. Leslie Cserepy plays Office Manager John Williamson with a certain righteous indignation and you get the sense that he hates all of them deep down. 

The cast is completed by Dale MacEachren as a pussy whipped patsy trying to undo his mistake and Dave Whiteley as beleaguered Detective Baylen popping in and out just trying to make some sense of the whole fractured mess in this dysfunctional madhouse.

There is a reason that these are among the most popular actors at the Gladstone. They’re damn good and work off of each other very well. The sure handed direction of Geoff Gruson has a pace that is frantic at times. Even when Mamet’s dialogue deliberately overlaps the casts' timing is spot on.

If you want a break from running from one Fringe show to another and just want to see a masterful play performed by a truly fine cast go see it now, but if you haven’t finished your Fringing yet, the play does run into July. 

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