Vincent Wells

Vincent Wells

Salesmen deliver timely message in prize-winning play

Director Gilles Leduc aims to strike the delicate balance between humour and drama in his stage production of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Leduc, who was familiar with the blockbuster movie version, had the play recommended to him by one of the actors now starring in it. The original play, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Mamet, differed significantly from its film version.

“The play is quite a bit funnier than I imagined,” Leduc said.

It still contains the colourful, strong language to convey the story of salesmen trying to scratch out a living during the recession of the early 1980s.

Leduc said the theme is one many people struggling during the current economic downtown can relate to.

“It just seems like a timely piece that people would understand,” he said.

The salesmen are real estate agents in a Chicago office, selling undesirable land to prospective clients using all sorts of means necessary, from lies and flattery to threats, bribery and burglary.

“[In the first act], each scene plays out like a separate play,” Leduc said.

In the second act, the office has been robbed and the police officer investigating interrogates each character individually.

“While this is all going on … they’re just scratching and trying to stay ahead of the other guy,” Leduc said.

The characters discuss recession-related business issues, such as the company cutting back the sales team, which is on straight commission, when it should build the sales force.

“It is a functional problem with the structure,” Leduc said. “The first thing that happens when business goes bad is you fire people.”

Leduc hand-picked his cast from local actors whose work he was familiar with, including Gerry Fraser as Levene; Eric Holmgren as Roma; Gordon May as Moss; Jorg Scott as Aaronow; Doug Campbell as Williamson; Vincent Wells as Lingk; and Greg Rogers as Baylen.

“It’s the kind of play that draws people,” Leduc said. “I really don’t hold an audition process.”

Thin Ice Theatre, Leduc’s production company has established a reputation for deep, vibrant characters, he said.

“We’re noted for finding layers in the characterization,” Leduc said.

Glengarry Glen Ross runs Friday and Saturday (May 27-28), and June 2-3 at Nanaimo Centre Stage, 25 Victoria Rd., beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets $15/advance from Fascinating Rhythm and the Bite Cafe; $18/door.