Caught in the crossfire

Glengarry Glen Ross delights with its relatable dark humour

This is a play complete with strong characters, gritty and perfectly timed storytelling and extensive profanity.
This is a play complete with strong characters, gritty and perfectly timed storytelling and extensive profanity.

Like a Quentin Tarantino film but shorter, Glengarry Glen Ross is a play that comes complete with strong characters, gritty and perfectly timed storytelling and, of course, extensive profanity.

Written by David Mamet, the King’s Town Players production features the lives of four Chicago real estate salesmen and their desperation when they are told that only the top two salesmen can keep their jobs. The title of the play is the name of the two real estate developments being sold by the salesmen: Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms.

“It’s dark, visceral, fragmented, depressing — offensive,” writes director Will Britton in the director’s note. “In short, it’s real. Really real.” At its core, Glengarry is a story about life: its ups and downs, how everyone by turn struggles and thrives, succeeds and fails.

In this way, it’s timelessly relatable.

In the opening act, the setting is a Chinese restaurant. Red is the dominant colour and there’s a painting of a Chinese dragon in the background. One word that comes to mind looking at the set is “power”, a common theme throughout the play.

The salesmen are all dressed in old-fashioned suits accessorized with a bowtie, a distinctive tie or an expensive watch, depending on personal taste. Each salesman has a propensity for raising his voice and startlingly energetic outbursts, but each is as distinct as a personally tailored suit.

Paul McCartney’s “House of Wax” opens the show and sets the tone: “Hidden in the yard/Underneath the wall/Buried deep below a thousand layers lay/the answer to it all.”

It’s dark and stormy, weary and ironic all at the same time. That was the mood of the play, punctuated by profanity and dark humour.

The audience loved it. The story is absorbing and very intense with the occasional relief from its sometimes dark and always profane humor.

It also gave a whole new meaning to the dramatic technique of “breaking the fourth wall,” which occurs when an actor acknowledges the audience.

In those moments it felt like being caught in the crossfire of the two warring sides as the salesmen verbally took one another down a notch. At other times, it was a welcome respite done in the name of light humour.

With the measured political correctness that most of us act with and receive every day, we tend to forget that there was once a time when this may still not be the norm in some countries. Glengarry Glen Ross reminds us of this.

It’s raw and uncomfortable and unapologetically so because it gives audiences a chance to experience and learn from the darker, uglier side of human nature.

This play is one for the determined and engaged audience member. From the actors and stage, to the music and narrative, it’s a play that is beautifully unrefined.

However, it’s not for the fainthearted and unprepared.

Glengarry Glen Ross is playing at the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall until Oct. 12.

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