Glengarry Glen Ross

By Ewa Manthey Source:Global Times Published: 2013-10-14 17:53:01

Four real estate salesmen working at the same company compete against each other to sell undesirable property. At the end of the month, the best salesman wins a new car, second place gets a set of steak knives and third place gets fired. There is no place for losers and they will do anything to win.

This is the plot of David Mamet's modern classic Glengarry Glen Ross. Set in Chicago, the darkly comedic play was inspired by Mamet's own experiences working in a real estate office in the late 1960s. Today, it still remains Mamet's most celebrated work.

A group shot of the cast of Glengarry Glen Ross. Photo: Courtesy of Urban Aphrodite

A group shot of the cast of Glengarry Glen Ross. Photo: Courtesy of Urban Aphrodite

Glengarry Glen Ross will be Shanghai's English-language theater group Urban Aphrodite's opening production to kick off its second season and also marks the first time the Tony-winning play will be staged in Shanghai.

The cast of locally based actors includes Alex Gomar, Justin Lenderking, Paul Collins, Dave Earl, Mark Edwards and Greg Carew. Mamet's play is an all-male cast and only three of the actors have been seen on the Shanghai stage before.

"Glengarry Glen Ross is considered one of the best plays in modern American theater," said Ann James, the director of the Shanghai version. "The writing is brilliant. The machine gun pace of the dialogue is remarkable but also really challenging for the actors, but these guys worked really hard."

The play is only an hour and a half long, but James says that a lot happens in those 90 minutes. "Before one character finishes his lines, another one already starts. This overlapping dialogue is beautiful when it works but it can also go very wrong when it doesn't. If you miss a line, your partner is screwed," said James.

"The way it is written is that you're getting cut off from your train of thought by someone else who's trying to put their train of thought over so it's this overlapping dialogue that makes it so challenging for the actors."

Glengarry Glen Ross opened on Broadway in 1984 and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama that year. A film version, directed by James Foley and starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey, was released to critical acclaim in 1992. Mamet adapted the screenplay himself, adding a role specifically written for Alec Baldwin that James also included in her adaptation.

James' adaptation, like the original, is set in Chicago in the 1980s with a dated office set and costumes. "We even have the real dial phones," she said.

The title of the play comes from the names of the two real estate developments, Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms that the desperate salesmen are trying to sell.

"This play is a slice of 1980s America. It was a time when people were vying for power. It was when shows like Dynasty and Dallas were on TV and when Donald Trump was starting to really make his rise," James said. "It was when all the ideas of money, materialism and capitalism were on the rise and I think China right now is at the beginning of that period; they're right at that point."

"The real estate business in China is exploding," she said. "I think the main reason why I picked this play is because I saw parallels between 1980s America and the mid-2000s culture of China."

"China is on the rise of that economic growth when you grab what you can, harvest while the sun is out," James said. "This play is in a way a lesson to learn how people can turn on one another for a set of steak knives."

The play famously contains torrents of explicit language and James cautions that it is suitable for mature audiences only.

Date: October 17 to 27, Thursdays to Sundays, 8 pm

Venue: Sasha's

Address: 3/F, 11 Dongping Road

Admission: 200 yuan (presale), 220 yuan at the door

Email or call 187-2152-8625 for tickets and more information

Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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