‘Glengarry’ story rings true
On its surface, “Glengarry Glen Ross” is about a group of men fighting the odds to sell swampland to unwilling buyers. But it’s really about a group of men fighting to survive in a world that wants to emasculate them, a world populated with what one character calls “clock watchers, bureaucrats, officeholders.”
The play, for which David Mamet won the Pulitzer Prize, is the subject of an ambitious production this weekend at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.
It’s hard to imagine a production of “Glengarry” that wouldn’t be ambitious — the play teems with complex, rapid-fire dialogue, and the characters have been played by some of the greatest actors of our time — Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey and Joe Mantegna.
It’s the fourth show for Matt Schwartz’s TriCara Productions, which he founded in 2006 after returning from studying acting in New York.
In an interview before a rehearsal earlier this week, Schwartz, 23, said there’s a message in “Glengarry Glen Ross” that should resonate today.
“I think people will be able to relate to the way these men — I mean these men are told that you’re going to lose your job if you don’t sell,” Schwartz said.
In addition to producing, Schwartz plays Richard Roma, the top-selling salesman who delivered that lament on the decline of manhood.
“We are the members of a dying breed,” Roma says.
Matthew Dearing plays John Williamson, an office manager despised by the salesmen — in their world, if you’re not selling, you’re not a man. But Williamson gets to decide who gets the good leads and who gets the deadbeats, and that’s the difference between first prize in the sales contest (a Cadillac) and coming in third (you’re fired).
“They need good leads from me, so they want to be on my good side, but they all hate my guts,” Dearing said.
“You’re an a———,” said Harvey Mack, standing nearby and (presumably) speaking as his character, Shelly Levene.
Director Laurie McCoy said working with an all-male cast allowed her to be more upfront with criticism. And that’s essential when the playwright is famous for his close attention to language.
In “Glengarry,” the script carefully notes pauses, word emphasis and when an actor should be talking over his colleagues.
The play also includes a lot of profanity. Schwartz said that reflects the way men like these talk to each other.
“They say ‘f—- you’ to each other about 25 times and it doesn’t mean nothing,” Schwartz said.
“There’s a lot of control issues,” McCoy added. “A lot of it they act out of anxiety ... their lives are their jobs. How they think of themselves as men is how they do their job. If you’re not doing your job right, you’re a failure ...”
“... As a man,” Schwartz completed the thought. “That’s a point brought up a lot of times in the play.”
McCoy said that since they’ve been rehearsing, Mamet’s frequently deployed f-word has lost some of its effect.
“It’s just like saying ‘table,’” she said.
“And the brilliance of Mamet is he uses it very effectively,” Schwartz added. “What isn’t a four-letter word is what needs to be listened to. ...
“Eventually, all the swearing at each other, all the male posturing, it all gets drowned out until when someone really says something that’s worth hearing.”
Asked why Mamet’s work was not produced more often in Springfield, Schwartz pointed to the subject matter.
“I think he tells people things that they don’t necessarily want to hear. I also think that his manner in doing so tends to be so realistic to the point where — if you’re going to the theater for escapism, his is not the place to go to,” Schwartz said.
“He throws real life in your face, and he points out things I don’t think th
at America is ready to hear. ... With this play he says, ‘To believe in the American dream — they call it the American dream because you’d have to be asleep to believe it.’”
Brian Mackey can be reached at (217) 747-9587 email@example.com.
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSSPresented by TriCara Productions
* When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
* Where: Hoogland Center for the Arts, 420 S. Sixth St.
* Tickets: $20, available at the Hoogland Center box office, by phone at 523-2787 and online at www.scfta.org
* Warning: The show contains explicit language and is not suitable for younger audiences.