Strong male cast in Glengarry

Strong male cast members infuse life and energy into David Mamet’s near-classic play, Glengarry Glen Ross, now at Theatre 5.
Strong male cast members infuse life and energy into David Mamet’s near-classic play, Glengarry Glen Ross, now at Theatre 5.
“We worked a lot on physicality,” said Glengarry’s director.
“We worked a lot on physicality,” said Glengarry’s director.

In a college town where the artistic population is predominantly female, mounting a production of the all-male drama Glengarry Glen Ross seems downright nervy. The much-hyped show opens this week at Theatre 5, and it doesn’t take more than a minute before you know director Michael Murphy made the right call in choosing the play for Staged and Confused 2006 season.

“I’ve loved the play for a long time,” Murphy told the Journal after Tuesday’s preview. “I knew this year I had the actors to do it.”

Featuring some of the best young male performers Kingston and Queen’s have to offer, Glengarry Glen Ross tells the story of four Chicago salesmen and their supervisor, who work together selling undesirable real estate at inflated prices. The play begins with the company’s bosses issuing a “contest,” giving the men a week to sell the most leads or risk getting fired, and tension erupts as each man struggles to secure his spot in the company by any |means necessary.

Full of sharp dialogue and witty exchanges, Glengarry is a pleasure to watch. Performing with some rather authentic-sounding Chicago accents, the cast deftly manoeuvers through playwright David Mamet’s dense script, delivering every speech with swift speed and precise execution, the result of many hours’ worth of intense rehearsals.

“Mamet actually writes all the pauses into it, which is difficult to get sounding naturalistic in rehearsal. We came into the process not doing any accents, but we found that we couldn’t help it,” said Murphy. “The text is really just written in that Chicago idiom.”

While the play’s action is confined mainly to a series of one-on-one discussions between different pairs of actors, Glengarry’s artful wordplay keeps the audience captivated from beginning to end.

“Mamet’s work incorporates a sort of verbal choreography,” actor Chris New told the Journal. “And some of the words are just a lot of fun to use.”

Indeed, like many of Mamet’s plays, Glengarry is generously peppered with the kind of language that might get your mouth washed out with soap. Several speeches contain some of the most creative combinations and repetitions of a certain four-letter word you’re likely to ever see onstage, and it is to both Mamet and the actors’ credit that each obscenity seems carefully placed and utterly necessary. It’s not just the “swears” that roll off the actors’ tongues, either—the entirety of the play’s dialogue flows with such ease and keeps such a fine-tuned dramatic pacing that the show is over long before you’re ready to leave.

Each year, Staged and Confused adds to its growing reputation as a company delivering some of the highest-quality student-driven theatre to be produced in Kingston in recent memory, and Glengarry is no exception. Even seasoned performers with multiple Kingston productions under their belts appear undeniably excited about the show.

“I’ve never worked with such a talented cast and crew,” said actor Graham Hood. “You can see by the hairstyles alone the amount of dedication that has gone into each role.”

Hood’s words ring true as a quick look around at several of the actors’ heads reveals hairstyles that, while wonderfully suited to their characters, must look a little comical by the light of day. Mustaches have been grown, hair has been thinned and bald spots have been shaved, all in the name of artistic dedication.

On top of such appropriate costuming, director Murphy has also elicited impressive physical performances from every actor. Phil Kalmanovitch, New and Simon Paabor are particularly strong in their embodiments of characters decades older than themselves—every gesture is methodical and in perfect keeping with their characters’ sentiments.

“We worked a lot on physicality,” said Murphy. “Finding a body that works for each character was the key thing.”

Coupled with all the characters’ well-refined Chicago accents, the physical appearance of each actor has rendered many of them virtually unrecognizable, which is no small feat for a production involving college-age actors and a relatively tight budget. It’s unusual to see such high-quality design and performance in Kingston theatre, so whether or not a fast-paced, edgy and expletive-laden drama is your cup of tea, the physical and vocal transformations of each actor in Glengarry Glen Ross are well worth the price of admission.

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