It takes a special cast to pull off a David Mamet play, and Paul Flicker has assembled a superlative team of actors who can indeed handle the playwright’s spare, scalding idiomatic dialogue with his directorial debut of Glen Garry Glen Ross at the Segal until March 30. The 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning work about a group of cut-throat Chicago salesmen selling worthless Florida real-estate to gullible victims is a riveting exercise in Flicker’s hands, made even more topical following the bust in the corrupt U.S. housing market six years ago.
In the brief first act we are introduced to the protagonists who get together to talk business in a Chinese restaurant and discover the rough game these guys are playing. Those who can sell the most units get a Cadillac as a reward, those who hit bad streaks are ostracized and can only get back into the game by offering bribes and kickbacks to the corrupt office manager, John Williamson (Graham Cuthbertson).
The first person we meet it Shelly Levene (R.H. Thomson) who, like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, is past his due date, demoralized, but still desperate to earn a living. Then we get to know George Aaronow (Michel Perron) and Dave Moss (Daniel Lillford) a pair of conspirators whose fascinating banter with much coded joshing builds to a roar of black humour.
Finally there is Richard Roma, (Brett Watson) a heartless wolf who sinks his fangs into a beautifully befuddled James Lingk (Mike Paterson) trying to get him to invest in swampland in the worthless development with the enticing name, Glen Garry Glen Ross.
The second half takes place following a break-in in the firm’s office. Here, set designer Michael Egan has constructed a brightly fluorescent-lit, claustrophobic space which brilliantly manages to convert the Segal’s wide, unweildly stage into an intimate interrogation room. (Egan’s Chinese blood red restaurant setting is another story, perhaps a little too upscale and not quite as seedy as it should be for such a sleazy, down-on-their- heels gang, but it is eye popping nevertheless.)
Between the two acts, someone has broken into the office and made off with a confidential and valuable list of prospective marks. With that, the play becomes a who-done-it as detective Baylen ( pitch perfect Tristan Lalla) attempts to find the culprit.
The actors, whose characters are just as victimized as their clients, each in turn earn our sympathy. It is a cast of stellar shysters. It is unfair to single out any one of them in such a fine ensemble piece, but Brett Watson’s Richard Roma seizes the stage from the moment he appears and, like a ferocious dog with a bone, never lets go. He excels as the first rate high pressure slime ball who is a master of verbal abuse and deadly charm. Cautionary word of warning: the dialogue is highly charged, brutal, and contains language some may find offensive.