Review: Glengarry Glen Ross (Column 13)

By Dana Lacey

Column 13’s Glengarry Glen Ross will have you handing over cheques you didn’t intend to write. Just don’t let your significant other know.

Robert Bellissimo, Jonah Allison, Brandon Thomas, Mischa Jay Cheeseman, Adam Bradley by Andrea Tingley

The first step to enjoying Column 13′s production of Glengarry Glen Ross is to remember that the 1992 movie version (based on a 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play) is packed with big-name, untouchable, uber-masculine actors — Pacino, Baldwin, Spacey, Lemmon – and features a whole lot of dull, dragged-out and often confusing scenes mixed with explosive, expletive-ridden dialogue. Now, imagine that movie stripped of the boring bits and you’ll get a better idea of what you’re in for.

Column 13’s version of the play skips straight to the goods: at one hour, it’s short, loud, hilariously action-packed and will have you swearing like a sailor for the rest of the week.

“There’s an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don’t think so. If you think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won’t live in it. That’s me.” That’s Ricky Roma, aka Al Pacino aka Brandon Thomas, spewing his personal brand of trust-me sales pitch to an unwitting investor. At first glance I thought Thomas looked too young, too baby-faced to play the velvet-tongued, street-wise and oh-so-philosophical Roma, but after a few lines all doubt disappeared and I found myself wondering if I shouldn’t be investing in Florida timeshares myself.

Thomas had great chemistry with Jonah Allison (aka the play’s director aka Jack Lemmon aka Shelley Levene, the once-golden salesman currently suffering a ‘bad streak’ that’s threatening to get him turfed). Allison opened the play with a very convincing, nervous barrage of f-bombs as he tries to appeal to his boss for just one hot lead. Leads are the currency of real estate schlepping: handed down from on high, the list of good leads — potentials investor with money to burn — becomes the centre of dispute when they are stolen from the office’s safe. I particularly loved the shade of red accomplished by Dave Moss aka Ed Harris aka Christian McKenna: obsessed with how The Man is keeping him down, he delivers his anger with such passion that I’d venture to call his barrages of unrepeatable insults poetic.

If this play were to be performed in one of Toronto’s larger theatres it would lose some of its impact. That the scenes take place on a tiny stage at Unit 102 Theatre (bathroom located stage right) means that the audience is literally in the middle of the action: you can see veins popping from foreheads, catch the increasingly-desperate nuances of Levene’s speech and find yourself trying not to chime in during the all-out, climatic dialogue brawls — you company man, you fucking secretary.

The takeaway lesson? ABC: Always be closing.


Photo: Robert Bellissimo, Jonah Allison, Brandon Thomas, Mischa Jay Cheeseman and Adam Bradley by Andrea Tingley

Glengarry Glen Ross plays November 3-6 and 10-13 at Unit 102 Theatre (46 Noble St., Toronto)

Shows start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are available online

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