Arts Club's Glengarry Glen Ross in the hands of a skilled band of actors

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      By David Mamet. Directed by Michael Shamata. An Arts Club Theatre Company production. At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Wednesday, July 28. Continues until August 22

      Playwright David Mamet makes music out of the word fuck in his classic 1983 script Glengarry Glen Ross and, in this Arts Club production, Mamet’s spoken score is in the hands of a skilled band of actors.

      The play is about a bunch of salesmen in a cutthroat Chicago real-estate office. The plot involves the theft of sales leads, but the real interest lies in Mamet’s expression of the ruthless energy of capitalism and masculinity: the drive to come out on top.

      The script’s macho force tumbles out in scenes and monologues that are like duets and solos in an evening of jazz. In the first of these, an older salesman named Levene struggles for survival; his sales have tanked and he’s going to get fired, so he tries to work a deal with Williamson, the office manager. Playing Levene, Gerard Plunkett expertly drives this scene, taking full advantage of the hysteria that fuels his character, and finding all sorts of nuance and surprise in Levene’s desperate rhythms. Vincent Gale is less effective as Williamson, offering a one-note wall of furious resistance.

      The energy drops in Scene 2 because John Pyper-Ferguson, who plays Moss, the character who should be keeping the motor running, lets it stall sometimes. This change in pace seems to be at least partly Michael Shamata’s directorial choice, however; it’s mirrored in Noah Drew’s sound design, where the introductory jazz is relatively languid. Still, Pyper-Ferguson is far from being asleep at the wheel, and his scene partner, Brian Markinson, deeply inhabits his character Aaronow’s comically hesitant rhythms.

      Playing top salesman and cock of the walk Ricky Roma, Will & Grace star Eric McCormack dominates the third scene of Act 1 and much of Act 2. The guy is fantastic. Roma seduces a client named Lingk with a sinuous flow of self-empowerment philosophy, then tears his mask off and hollers in animal rage when he discovers that his plans have been thwarted. Much of the beauty in McCormack’s performance lies in the physical details: the way he adjusts the collar on his shirt as if clothing can barely contain him, and the unexpected delicacy of his hand gestures.

      In the most satisfying passage of the evening, Roma and Levene collude to snow the hapless Lingk. The salesmen relish their deception, and actors McCormack and Plunkett are clearly delighted as they ride Mamet’s language. Bart Anderson’s Lingk is such an effectively whey-faced loser that it’s enough to make you sick to your stomach.

      The second act unfolds in a real-estate office, and designer Kevin McAllister offers a boldly architectural set: a slab of space angled on the Stanley Theatre’s wide stage, defined by a thick white frame and accented by a pillar and the angularity of cheap office furniture.

      There is one hugely annoying element in this show: the use of noisy, distorting microphones in Act 1. They shouldn’t be necessary; these guys are real actors.

      Watch a preview of the Arts Club Theatre's production of Glengarry Glen Ross.



      Francesca Vivanti

      Jul 30, 2010 at 12:17pm

      I really enjoyed all the performances in this production on opening night, but especially Bart Anderson – he epitomized the saying that there are no small parts, only small actors. He had hardly any lines but gave a brilliant performance as the foil for McCormack's ruthless character. Well done, great work.

      laura glover

      Aug 1, 2010 at 9:50am

      Spot-on review based on our experience opening night. Plunkett was heart-wrenching and hilarious moment to moment, and McCormack brought subtleties to a forthright character that made the performance sensational (his hands deserve a paycheck and standing o all their own).

      I was very glad to see your comment on the mikes in scene 1 - I sincerely hope they fix this, as I found it very distracting and thought it detracted from the professionalism of the show.

      Thank god for writers like Mamet, artistic directors such as Bill Millerd, and actors willing to embody such rich and moving characters. Moments like this I am proud to be (and, perhaps more importantly, remain) a Vancouver theatre-goer.


      Andy Jackson

      Aug 4, 2010 at 12:59pm

      I saw this show. I wouldn't buy a toilet seat from these ugly hasbeen TV actors. They should stick to what they know, the talking box.


      Aug 5, 2010 at 7:12pm

      I saw the show the other night. There were definitly no microphones used. Obviously they were cut. And rightly so, its sounds like...

      Yacht Broker Tom

      Aug 7, 2010 at 10:59pm

      Enjoyed it overall... but what heck? The most famous scene in the movie (Alec Baldwin's speach) wasnt even in the play!

      Peter Fuzz

      Aug 10, 2010 at 3:32pm

      Alec Baldwin played Blake - a character that does not appear in the script for stage, which was written in 1984 and won the Pullitzer Prize. The screenplay was written much later (1990s) and David Mamet added the character then.

      I believe it is fairly common for local theatre troupes to use scripts written for stage, even when newer screenplays exist, as the royalties are less. This is why Beauty and the Beast and It's a Wonderful Life both differed from the movie versions too!

      Colin Thomas GS

      Aug 22, 2010 at 9:15pm

      Local theatre troupes use scripts that are written for the stage because they are performing on stages. Screenplays are written for the screen. When stage plays are adapted for the screen, as was the case with Glengarry Glen Ross, they are usually altered to accommodate the nature of that medium. And the same thing happens in reverse when movies such as Beauty and the Beast and It's a Wonderful Life are adapted for the stage.
      Colin Thomas