Bad Business

The ABCs of the Segal Centre’s New Production ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’

  • R.H. Thompson (left) and Graham Cuthbertson in The Segal Centre’s new production of Glengarry Glen Ross Photo Andrée Lanthier

The world of David Mamet’s classic Glengarry Glen Ross is one built on the power of words as weapons and glasses of hard whiskey.

It’s a world where the single golden rule is ABC—Always Be Closing.

The play tells the story of four Chicago real estate salesmen working in a brutally competitive environment, with each one aiming to succeed and make the big sale—at any cost.

Throughout, the salesmen resort to any actions they deem necessary, from the unethical to the outright illegal. It’s done with three simple settings, and is driven by Mamet’s electrically charged dialogue.

After a solid month of rehearsals six days a week, the play obsessed with closing has finally opened at the Segal Centre, where it will be until March 30.

Searching for insider information, The Link spoke to Graham Cuthbertson, a former Concordia Theatre student who plays the role of office manager John Williamson in the production.

“He is sort of an outsider to this group of salesmen. He’s an office manager so he works on salary, whereas everyone else works on commission,” said Cuthbertson of his character. “[It] has lead to a lot of animosity between him and his sales force. “

There’s a certain gravity that comes to putting on a piece which has become a touchstone for theatre aficionados and actors alike, all drawn by the colourful and violently vivid dialogue which is delivered by an all-male cast of characters.

“When you’re in school, a lot of guys are into this play because the language is so ferocious and violent and nasty. Guys really like to chew their teeth into it,” he said.

Since Glengarry premiered in 1983, it has enjoyed great success, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and also having been adapted into a film, which saw Al Pacino nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Despite the fact that the play has been performed countless times, Cuthbertson, his fellow actors and director Paul Flicker made the choice to journey into the show with a faithful adaptation, rather than trying to lend it a spin or a brand new angle. Simplicity of spirit is key in a piece which hinges on the writing itself, and this is something the production is looking to bank on.

“Rather than trying to reinterpret the piece and think of a hip new concept that the audience has never seen before, we have gone very traditional. For us, the play is about the language,” Cuthbertson said. “I think that what’s important for us is being authentic, telling the story clearly, keeping the stakes high. They’re ferocious, angry people. Money and status is very important to them.”

Despite the extreme verbal violence exacted between characters on stage, Cuthbertson maintains that he and his fellow actors are nothing but amiable towards one another.

“It’s too bad really,” he quipped, “we’ve really been really very respectful of each other.”

What goes on before the audience will hopefully be nothing short of dynamite, seeing as it’s a piece dependent on the way the characters interact with one another. Cuthbertson is confident in the cast’s ability to tear one another to absolute shreds.

“We just get inside of it, and we just go after each other, ferociously, for an hour and a half. We figured it all out, we’re running at a pretty good clip now.”

Glengarry Glen Ross // March 16 – 30 // The Segal Centre (5170 Côte-Ste-Catherine Rd.) // Various times // $24 and up

Stay tuned for The Link’s review of this production on the Fringe Blog!

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