eric peterson and albert schultz
There are few plays the capture the essence of desperation quite like Glengarry Glen Ross. David Mamet is a genius at expressing the richest of human emotions in the simplest, most spare and concise bit of vernacular poetry. As David Storch (director of the remount of the critically acclaimed production from last Spring, currently playing at Soulpepper Theatre until June 5th, 2010) observes in the programme notes, “Mamet mined all the issues of that terrible recession in the early eighties and the desperation and frustration of that era has come full circle.” It is a perfect choice for Soulpepper to produce this play (about real estate agents clawing their way to the top of the board) now because its themes are entirely relevant to the world we live in, but the play is so captivating and sharp and saturated with power, greed and testosterone that it refuses to allow us to wallow in our own despair- the pace is so quick, if your mind wanders for a moment you’re screwed!
The man sitting next to me in the theatre was a huge Glengarry Glen Ross fan and he kept providing extra insight for the woman he was with, which I happily soaked up as well. He described the interactions between the characters as, “two fencers exchanging light taps.” The language is so succinct that it must be delivered with the utmost precision and proficiency. There’s no fucking with Mamet, so to speak. Of course, Soulpepper is home to some of this country’s most proficient actors, and this production is definitely no exception.
The two most mesmerizingly brilliant performances in this show were that of Eric Peterson as Shelly Levene and Albert Schultz as Richard Roma. Peterson’s vocal rhythm from the moment he opened his mouth in the first scene until the curtain call was breathtaking in its ability to sound so poetic and yet so natural simultaneously. He elicited empathy from the audience so subtly, it was almost sly, and saturated every word he said with such context without being at all didactic or drawing any attention to it. In all, it was such a concisely perfect performance, that in hindsight I find myself so aware of how finely crafted Mr. Peterson’s art is. I stand in awe of him. Albert Schultz was a perfect complement to Peterson, which made the scene they shared like watching a really fantastic tennis match. Schultz played Richard Roma as the essence of the crooked salesman, with his seedy underbelly exposed, continually changing his tactics and building the momentum and intensity for the audience. Like Peterson, his art is so finely tuned; it is impossible not to admire that kind of skill. In both cases, they are two performances that I feel very fortunate to have seen.
Jordan Pettle is also particularly outstanding as John Williamson, the young office manager who the real estate agents despise. He has a quiet smugness and continually keeps his cool amid the ongoing chaos. Pettle masters Williamson’s subtlety magnificently.
As I exited the theatre I heard impressed audience members commenting on the production and the words that continually cropped up were “crisp,” “quick” and “fast paced.” The Intermission snuck up on the entire theatre, and everything flew by in a whirling blur of captivating exchanges, yelling, and profanity. This is all thanks to David Storch’s clean and sharp direction, which was as succinct and precise as the playwriting and the acting.
This is a play that I think even people who maintain that they don’t enjoy live theatre will like. It has all the features of a really well-made television program, with three times the intensity, adrenaline, and urgency. You can’t fake Mamet, which makes it even more apparent that the great men working at Soulpepper Theatre are indeed the real deal. Glengarry Glen Ross runs until June 5th, 2010, for tickets and more information, please visit their website at http://www.soulpepper.ca/ or call 866-8666.
*This review has been reposted from the article written about the same production in April, 2009.