All-Female Glengarry Glen Ross Shines at the Red Sandcastle Theatre
Remember the thrill of riding roller coasters when you were young? The anticipation, the speed and intense power would leave you breathless. Leaving the ride, tears would be almost airbrushed to your cheeks and you wanted to get right back in line. If you think those kind of thrills are a thing of the past, think again. There’s an all-female version of Glengarry Glen Ross now onstage at Red Sandcastle Theatre on Queen Street East in Toronto, and seeing this play makes those adolescent thrills seem pale by comparison.
Glengarry Glen Ross is Pullitzer Prize winning play written by David Mamet. It is a play about real estate agents, all of them male. It’s also set in New York City, so dialogue moves along at supersonic speed. The thing that sets this production of Glengarry Glen Ross apart is that all the characters are played by female actors. And for me, that is as exciting and inviting as spring!
While the actors are all female, the characters’ names remain unchanged, as does Mamet’s text. There’s four “salesmen”, ranging from seasoned to up-and-coming. Like other Mamet plays I have seen, this one focuses on dialogue and acting. I love these sorts of plays, where talent gets to shine and the cast strikes a chord with the audience on emotional and intellectual levels.
Red Sandcastle Theatre is a small venue with about 50 seats, so it’s very intimate. As the dialogue onstage heats up and races along, it’s almost like overhearing a conversation at a restaurant. That’s a testament to the direction of Anita La Selva and the talent onstage. When one is capable of losing one’s self in the art and feel like we are “there”, not in a storefront theatre in Leslieville, something has gone incredibly right.
Elizabeth Saunders plays Shelly “The Machine” Levene. This is the character that Jack Lemon turned into a cultural icon in the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross and spawned The Simpsons’ “Old Gil”. Saunders is faithful to the original “feel” of the play but adds another dimension. Her no-nonsense version of “The Machine” reminded me of my grandmother. Watching Saunders performance wasn’t like being at a theatre at all: it was more like stepping back in time and having lunch at that four foot square table on Seneca Street in St. Catharines.
John Williamson, the uptight corporate prick, is played by Julie Brar. Cold and calculating, Brar makes me hate her character as much as I hate an inbox filled with customer complaints and QA rejects on Monday morning. You will love to hate Julie Brar’s portrayal of Williamson.
They don’t mention Richard Roma’s full name in the play but they should. It’s Ricky “Fucking” Roma, okay? Marianne Sawchuk brings chutzpah and charisma to her version of Roma. She’s no-nonsense, speaks her mind and has got the swagger down pat, in spades. Sawchuk’s version of Ricky Roma reminded me of my dad a little, a son of a bitch with a big heart.
Dave Moss (Francoise Balthazar) and George Aaronow (Laurel Paetz) round out the sales team. Moss is loud and kind of a one-dimensional joke. “He” may be behind the robbery, but is he really? Balthazar steals a few scenes with her over-the-top performance — and that’s another reason to like this all-female version of Glengarry Glen Ross: her portrayal of a male enables us to take a more critical view of male roles, instead of accepting them as a matter of fact.
Well, Detective Baylen (Robinne Fanfair) is the one to decide that. Or maybe it is up to one of the hapless sales agents to open their big fat mouth. Whatever happens, happens. The catalyst that makes the break-in so easy to solve is the character James Lingk (Rosemary Doyle). Doyle does a great job playing the character we can all relate to, the one that has been ripped off over and over and over again.
I love this mounting of Glengarry Glen Ross by Jet Girls Productions. It re-examines male stereotypes and modern life with a fresh, new perspective. This is a great chance to get in on an excellent opportunity. And I tell you this as a friend: people were being turned away at the door on the night I attended. The play was sold out, so act now to avoid disappointment!