LIFE&STYLE

‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ explores trials of success

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 30, 2015 - 19:27
  • Updated : Apr 30, 2015 - 19:27

Seoul Players is set to perform David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” as the second part of its spring season.

The troupe ended performances of “Top Girls” last weekend in the first part of a double-header featuring all-female and all-male casts.

Seoul Players artistic director Barri Tsavaris said the two plays complemented each other in their exploration of success as a man or woman and what it took, as well as other themes.

“‘Glengarry’ contrasts with ‘Top Girls’ first and foremost just in the way it is so completely masculine,” she said. “Also, ‘Top Girls’ tells stories of women’s rise to the top, while ‘Glengarry’ stories are more about men’s fall to the bottom, particularly the tale of one man, Shelley Levene.”

The cast of Seoul Players’ “Glengarry Glen Ross” (Michael Young Song)

“Glengarry Glen Ross” takes place in a real estate agency in 1982, where cutthroat competition defines the status of the men who work there.

“Your success, in this world, is measured entirely on your sales revenue,” said Tsavaris, who also directs the seven-man play.

“These men work on commission and are literally being pitted against one another to close sales, like animals in the wild competing for prey or mates.”

The sales rankings are listed openly on a board in the office. Those who didn’t make a sale simply aren’t mentioned on the board.

“You’re not even listed up there among the other men,” said Tsavaris.

“That definition of success might seem quite narrow, especially over 30 years later, but it is really all too different from standards and expectations in place today?”

Mamet is a popular playwright among expat theater groups, something Tsavaris puts down to the honesty and grittiness of the plots and language.

She acted in Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” a few years ago.

“Mastering the text was tough. But once you do, man, it just flows, It’s just so natural,” she said.

“He shines light on the topics that we’re not supposed to talk about because they’re not politically correct, and he does it in the most un-PC ways, and forces us to address our deepest thoughts on morality, race, sex, you name it.”

In “Glengarry Glen Ross,” the characters ― some arrogant, some timid, many dishonest ― may come across as difficult to like, but Tsavaris disagrees.

“After getting to know these men over the past four months, ‘unlikable’ wouldn’t be the first word I’d use to describe any of them, because every single one of them is layered and nuanced,” she said.

“Yes, a couple of them are more wretched than others, that’s for sure! But they are also hopeful; they are also scared; they are also caring, albeit in their own odd ways; they are intelligent and charismatic and passionate and pensive and funny.

“And yes, they are flawed. because they are human. And that’s what will keep the audience caring for them and rooting for them.

“As awful as they are at times, as terrible as their true colors might be, they are fully developed humans, and dare I say it ― we might even recognize a piece of ourselves in them.”

“Glengarry Glen Ross” runs May 9 and 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and May 10 and 17 at 3 p.m. at Arts Tree Theater in Guro, Seoul.

Tickets are 20,000 won, and half of the ticket sales from the first show will go toward local charity Samdong International’s Nepal relief fund. For information or bookings, contact seoulplayers@gmail.com or visit www.seoulplayers.org.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)