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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Theatre review: Glengarry Glen Ross proves solid acting can be genderless

There are no fucking pink Cadillacs in the current production of Glengarry Glen Ross, as the woman of Classic Chic Productions don’t just become the testosterone filled assholes of David Mamet’s play, but prove that solid acting can be genderless.

As this company demonstrated with their production of The Winter’s Tale last year, the idea of casting women in male roles is anything but a gimmick. While that idea may be intriguing to some, and may even help get people into the theatre, a gimmick can only get you so far. Thankfully there is so much to like about this production of Glengarry Glen Ross, that goes well beyond any initial curiosity that might draw an audience in the first place.

Leading the success of the show are the combined talents of director Rachel Peake’s cast. This all-female cast doesn’t play Mamet’s characters as women, but interprets  them as written. The male “spread”, the machismo-fueled bravado, the incessant locker room profanity, the sexist attitudes, are all on display. Hell, if these women had balls they’d be scratching them.

While a solid ensemble, there are definite stand-outs. Colleen Winton as Shelly “The Machine” Levene brings a multi-layered performance that perfectly encapsulates Levene’s desperation and vulnerability; it is both breathtaking and heartbreaking to watch.

Suzanne Ristic gives an equally terrific performance in one of the smaller roles. As George Aaronow, the aging salesman with low self-esteem, Ristic’s first appearance at the Chinese restaurant with Corina Akeson, in an equally strong performance as Dave Moss, is simply enthralling. These two create a dynamic that makes it one of the show’s most memorable scenes.

Michelle Martin stumbles out-of-the-gate as uber-salesman Ricky Roma in the particularly tough scene where she meets her latest mark, but as she moves into the seedy real-estate office she flourishes, with the sound of balls reverberating through the Beaumont Studios.

Marci T. House stays tough as office manager John Williamson and Christina Wells Campbell gives Lingk a suitably brow-beaten weakness.

Like last year’s The Winter’s Tale, much of the success in the performances here has to be attributed to the director; it can’t be easy turning a cast of women into believable male characters. As with last year though, this is not just imitation, but in many cases an amazing transformation.

Ultimately though, a production like this begs the question as to its artistic merit. Does a show about men, with all male characters, benefit from being performed by women? In this instance that question is rendered moot given the solid nature of its performances. Here there is little evidence that even with this production’s strong female actors there is little overt differentiation between the sexes. Since these women simply become these male characters, it is nearly impossible to see how gender influences their portrayals.

But that isn’t meant to take anything away from this solid production, and instead remains a testament to the skill of these actors; these women prove they are just as good as a man.

Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. Directed by Rachel Peake. A Classic Chic Productions presentation. On stage at the Beaumont Studio (326 West 5th Ave, Vancouver) until June 27. Visit for tickets and information.

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