By Adam Collier
Like you’re theatre filled with profanity? Well, Glengarry Glen Ross playing in Toronto is the show for you!
In the first scene two men are sitting in the booth of a restaurant. One asks the other for leads (a sales term for potential buyers).
The man asking comes across as desperate to get what he wants. He talks a lot. He looks tense.
Scene two has a similar vibe. The subject is different (this time it is robbing an office) but there’s a rough, rude energy.
Scene three is, especially in comparison to the first two, as smooth and oily as hair cream. The structure is the same as before: two men talking, one attempting to persuade the other. But the persuasion itself is on another level.
In scenes one and two, the impetus behind the persuasion is the past (references to accomplishments, and connections to high placed people). Scene three is relatively abstract. The dominant speaker speculates on what may have happened or what might happen. And frames all of it in thoughtful terms of what’s right and good.
“I didn’t understand anything in the first scene,” my eighteen-year-old nephew told me at intermission (between scenes three and four). “I liked the third scene because of what he was saying about the arbitrariness of life and winning the lottery and – I mean, that’s something I think about too. And I liked the second scene too.”
Scene four brings together all the characters. They are in the real estate office where they work; the morning after the place has been robbed. All the leads and contracts (promises to buy) are gone.
This last scene is violent. The men – ranging in age between forty and sixty-years old, wearing three-piece suits – kick a desk and a filing cabinet, and yell while standing just inches from one another. The text has a lot of accusations and expletives.
“I didn’t really get it” my nephew told me after the show. He paused for a moment, “And I forget the names of almost all the characters, so I can’t even tell you what happened.”
Though the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama was given to Glengarry Glen Ross (written by David Mamet), it’s evident that just because a play is prestigious, it doesn’t mean it’s fully relatable or easy-to-follow storytelling.
It wasn’t just my nephew I heard expressing uncertainty in the last scene. I heard quite a few couples talking about it as we were exiting the lobby.
The irony to me is that what made a crucial disclosure in the last scene so challenging to decipher is exactly the fast delivery and wit of the language – both its vocabulary and staccato sound – that I heard patrons speaking so admirably of at the intermission.
One line about halfway through the fourth scene is a game-changing disclosure. But I fell out of the action for a minute or two because it didn’t immediately register to me what had happened. This gap had a medium effect on my enjoyment of this production.
The cast is strong. The costumes and set are good (they’re believable; “Some offices really do look like that,” my nephew said referring to a dam of paper on stage in the last scene). The lighting (by Kimberly Purtell) is good too; no one looks good under florescent lamps, and the final scene is all under florescent bulbs.
A big portion of this production has the characters sitting down. I felt a bit restless looking at all the static space on stage, especially in the first three scenes.
Aside from that point, though, I enjoyed Glengarry Glen Ross. It certainly gave my nephew and I a lot to talk about afterwards as we waited for the streetcar. That residual effect of the play is valuable to me; so I’d recommend it.
– Glengarry Glen Ross is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (in the Distillery District, 55 Mill Street)
– The production runs from April 7th through June 6th (please consult the website http://www.youngcentre.ca for show times)
– Tickets range in price, from $36 to $68. There are rush tickets available for $20 (and $5 if you’re a student)
– Tickets can be purchased at the box office (in the Young Centre), by phone (416-866-8666), or online (http://www.youngcentre.ca)
– For more info, check-out the website (http://www.youngcentre.ca)