August 5, 2010

Arts Club x 'Glengarry Glen Ross' x Stanley Theatre

Arts Club Theatre Company's production of Glengarry Glen Ross at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, written by David Mamet on August 4, 2010 (matinee performance).

Glengarry Glen Ross | Stanley Theatre

Glengarry Glen Ross, the 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning London and Broadway show by legendary playwright and filmmaker David Mamet, is probably my favourite play of all time. Its rapid-fire dialogue and filthy language from an all-male cast spits out all the testosterone, machismo, and deception of an era of greed and little substance in such a specific yet minimalist way. I find the subject matter and writing engrossing and ingenious.

Ever since watching the excellent film version with its amazing cast, I have been fascinated by the thrilling drama of Glengarry Glen Ross. Alec Baldwin's famous beginning monologue, "Always be closing", has become iconic as the scene was specifically written for him and not in the original play.

Photo by David Cooper.

The Vancouver production by the Arts Club is top notch. Television star and hometown hero, Eric McCormack (Will & Grace), gets the meatiest, most showy role as Richard Roma (portrayed by Al Pacino in the 1992 film). McCormack, sporting a goatee and fresh tan, chews the scenery up, delivering foul-mouthed monologues and deceiving the other characters seamlessly. It was a little jarring seeing McCormack spouting off f-bombs with the best of them considering his usual nice guy roles as he shows his dynamic range. McCormack manages the trick of being aggressively mean while maintaining a unique charm needed by the character to pull off his successes and make a sale.

Glengarry Glen Ross at the Arts Club

The character that steals any Glengarry Glen Ross production is that of Shelly "The Machine" Levene, a sadly pathetic character, desperately clinging to the fading reality of his sad little life. Gerard Plunkett eats up every line, delivering a facade of confidence in front of an obvious desperation superbly with an amazing amount of timing and sharp delivery. As Levene, Plunkett's performance is the highlight of the show. He challenges Jack Lemon's famous performance and that of the satirical character of Gil Gunderson from The Simpsons based on Levene.

Glengarry Glen Ross at the Arts Club

John Pyper-Ferguson is slickly loud and despicable as the scheming Moss, the angry, explosive salesman. I could see the venomous spit spew from his mouth as he belted out angry line one after another. As Williamson, Vincent Gale plays the antagonistic boss as a hard ass, trying to maintain a healthy balance in an office full of hot heads. Brian Markinson and Bart Anderson round out the cast well as director Michael Shamata does an admirable job recreating the cut throat vibe of a 1980s Chicago real estate firm of questionable ethics.

This is a outstanding production of a remarkable play. A word of warning to those unfamiliar with the show and Mamet's work, there is a lot of coarse, offensive language, and some racial humour. Glengarry Glen Ross is on now until August 22.

Photo | Darren Barefoot / David Cooper

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