As someone deeply passionate about the silver screen, most people assume I’ve seen every film ever made. While I’m confident that I’ve seen a far greater number and variety of films then my average contemporary, the 1992 adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross is not one of them. So going to a production of the play this past Saturday meant that I was able to view the story of the sordid dealings of a Chicago real estate office with fresh, un-tainted eyes.
Over the past two years that I’ve covered plays at The Segal Center I’ve always been thoroughly impressed with the set design, and this time was no different. In a play your actors live in the limited environments you create for them, and it’s made me realize that set design is one of the crucial elements to a successful production. For mastering this I tip my proverbial hat first to the set and costume designer Michael Eagan. In the first act we meet all the characters in a Chinese restaurant, designed in this beautiful deep red. Then the second act plays out in the cold, broken, over head lighting of the real estate office where the characters work. Even the chaos of the vandalized office was put together perfectly.
Having watched Road to Avonlea as a child, I was most excited to hear that R.H Thomson would be in this production. His character Shelly Levene is supposed to be a once successful salesman who’s now down on his luck and desperate for good leads. Thomson made his Shelley more manic then pathetic and the profanity laced Chicago accent felt a little forced at times. Thomson was good, but I felt he was trying a little too hard to be great.
I was also a bit disappointed in MikePaterson’s performance. Perhaps I’m bias because I know how good he is at comedy and selling the audience on his loud, exuberant personality. So in contrast seeing Paterson as the timid client George Aaronow was a bit of a let down. I’d be curious to read what others thought of his performance.
For me the stand out performance of the night came from Graham Cuthbertson. As office manager Jon Williamson he was engaging without being showy, which I think is an impressive feat in a play; it’s tempting to be as over the top as possible on stage. The program says that Cuthbertson is a staple of Segal Center productions, so I’m excited to attend future productions that he’s involved with.
My final tip of the hat goes to the great man David Mamet himself. This production of Glengarry Glen Ross is not perfect, but absolutely worth seeing for an evening of professional actors reciting this amazing dialogue. Who could of thought that watching a group of alpha-males scream phrases like “You’re a cunt!” at each other for two hours could be so darn entertaining.
Glengarry Glen Ross runs until March 30th at the Segal Center. Get your tickets here.
Photo by Andree Lanthier.