Each week, Drama Club looks at Toronto’s theatre scene and tells you which shows are worth checking out.
Soulpepper serves up serious sausage-fest. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
There’s a certain kind of boy—and we’re not saying it’s every boy—who can recite all the words to the Will you go to lunch? scene from Glengarry Glen Ross from memory. Although the 1992 film, featuring an all-star, all-machismo cast filled with the likes of Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, and Kevin Spacey, was more of a cult-hit than a blockbuster, it has still inspired a pretty devoted (and probably pretty male) group of followers, who have nicknamed the cuss-filled real-estate-agent drama “Death of a Fuckin’ Salesman.” In the past couple of years, there has been a serious glut of popular (and in some cases, not-so-popular) movies finding their way onto the Toronto stage. CanStage has been a pretty serious offender this season, with one show based on a popular movie, and two others whose runs coincided with their Oscar-nominated adaptations’ screen dates. Mirvish’s upcoming season seems to be almost entirely populated with shows based on existing popular movies and TV shows. And last night, Soulpepper‘s stage version of Glengarry Glen Ross opened at the Young Centre. To be fair, David Mamet’s Pullitzer Prize–winning play the film was based on debuted on Broadway almost a decade before the film was made, so it may not be entirely fair to include it as an example of this movies-on-stage trend. However, we’re sure that more than one person in the crowd last night was wondering when Alec Baldwin’s character was going to show up.
After the fold, what we thought about Glengarry, plus more theatre news and reviews.
Death of a Fuckin’ Salesman
Eric Peterson gives Albert Schultz a couple of acting tips. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Soulpepper’s greatest strength lies in classy, capable, and well-cast productions of proven scripts. With Glengarry Glen Ross, the company plays to its strengths. It’s hard to imagine a more suitable cast for this intriguing drama, or a more elegant design.
The play follows the lives of four Chicago real-estate agents under duress. Management has just informed them that they are about to enter a contest in which the top seller at the end of the month wins a Cadillac, and the bottom two lose their jobs. The men respond differently to the challenge: some bust their ass to make a sale, others decide to break into the office and steal all the leads. Veteran actors Peter Donaldson, Eric Peterson, William Webster, and Soulpepper Artistic Director Albert Schultz play the real-estate agents, while Jordan Pettle plays middle management. All the men are terrific performers. Eric Peterson dominates the stage for much of the show as scheming has-been salesman Levene, while Jordan Pettle copes admirably with a significantly butch-er role than he is usually given. Schultz embues the charismatic Ricky Roma with appropriate levels of smarm and chutzpah. But the uncredited star of this production is Ken MacDonald’s entirely beautiful set, a sort of half-realistic, half-expressionist chalkboard jungle that alternates between housing a Chinese restaurant, and the real estate agents’ office.
Mamet’s scripts, chock-a-block with expletives, interjections, and half-finished, half-started sentences, requires a particular level of energy, as well as a particular speed. During the first act last night, the company wasn’t quite there. Eric Peterson started things off with a bang, but sometime after that, things started to crawl, if only a little. However, the company had a 100% recovery in the (admittedly more exciting) second act: a very exciting, and very loud, single scene. Hopefully, this was just a case of opening night jitters, and the show will probably tighten as the run continues. In any event, this is a fantastic show, and easily one of Soulpepper’s best in recent memory. You should definitely consider checking it out, even if you haven’t seen the movie.
On Stage This WeekAnother Home Invasion continues its run in Tarragon’s Extra Space. Joan MacLeod’s one-hander examines the life and routine of an elderly woman, played by the terrific Nicola Lipman. The script is funny, touching, and rings true, and Richard Rose’s direction makes for a very simple and elegant execution. Younger crowds may find this play less relatable than MacLeod’s earlier work, but if you’re willing to give it a listen, she really does have a beautiful little story to tell. It plays until April 19.
Dedicated to the Revolutions continues at Buddies. The culmination of a project Small Wooden Shoe has been working on since 2006, this show attempts to explore the impact of seven scientific revolutions on society. Bright young performers like Frank Cox-O’Connell, Evan Webber, and Erin Shields do their best to explain science in layman’s terms. Sometimes, it works in a really lovely way—there’s one moment in particular where the lights of the theatre stand in for the history of artificial light in cities at nighttime that is absolutely gorgeous—but often, it fails. This seems to be intentional; the company is more focused on entertaining than educating, and on that front, they definitely do succeed. But there are moments where the show’s tweeness becomes more tedious than charming, and it’s possible that attempting to explain the history of modern science and technology in one ninety-minute play was just a tad over-ambitious. It plays until April 12.
Fishbowl: A Concise, Expansive Theory of Everything continues at Buddies in Bad Times. It’s a one-man show written and performed by Mark Shyzer in which he plays five different characters. It plays until April 12.
Birdland Theatre‘s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot opened last night at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District. The play, directed by David Ferry, is a remount of the company’s hugely-lauded (but barely seen) 2005 production which walked away with five Doras. The time-travelling comedy/drama, which dramatizes a court trial for Jesus’ ex-BFF in Purgatory, has a fabulous cast that includes Aviva Armour-Ostroff, Adam Brazier, Ted Dykstra, Richard Greenblatt, Morris Panych, Diego Matamoros, and Louise Pitre. It plays until April 15.
CanStage’s production of beloved one-woman show Shirley Valentine continues at the Bluma. This time, Nicola Cavendish plays the bored British housewife who lets her imagination run away from her on a vacation in Greece. (There is also a charming film version with Tom Conti and a cameo by Joanna Lumley.) It plays until April 18.
We weren’t exactly wild about the touring production of Broadway sensation Spring Awakening that recently checked into the Canon Theatre. Youthful enthusiasm and a couple of hummable tunes don’t quite make up for beyond-inane lyrics, uninspired staging, and a severely watered-down take on a classic play. But the kids sure seem to like it. It runs until April 19.