All-female cast takes on Glengarry Glen Ross

The leads are not weak in gender-swapping production

The sad and sleazy real estate salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross are being played by women in an upcoming production.

Classic Chic Productions will present David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer-Prize winning play with an all-female cast as the inaugural theatrical production at the new flexible performance space in Beaumont Studios, June 6 to 27.

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Director Rachel Peake, who directed the world premiere opera Stickboy by spoken word artist Shane Koyzcan, was surprised and fascinated when Classic Chic moved from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale to the modern American classic for its second production. She’d watched the movie, seen and studied the play.

“It’s not something I ever thought about directing because it’s such a male play,” Peake said. “So when they brought it to me and said that they wanted to do it with an all-female cast, I went oh, OK, I guess I’d better look at it then.

“I have a real interest in looking at the way men and women deal with the world,” she continued. “The idea of putting these words into women’s mouths but then have them perform them as men would allow us to really hear them in a new way.”

The men in Glengarry Glen Ross use expletives as the grease that gets them where they’re going, Peake said, paraphrasing others.

“The language is filthy,” she said. “It’s amazing, many of the actors have young children and they’re like, ‘It’s so hard to turn it off when you leave the rehearsal hall.’”

But audiences shouldn’t expect to see a woman performing Alec Baldwin’s iconic “always be closing speech” from the film adaptation of the play.

“The Alec Baldwin speech from the film is actually not in the play,” Peake said. “We contemplated bringing it in, but I feel like one of the beauties of the play is that the bosses are Murray and Mitch and they never appear and they never get their own voice, they’re just sort of this omnipotent presence that rules their lives and I was really fascinated by that.”

Peake expects themes of aging, feeling less relevant, worrying about money and being left behind to resonate with Vancouver audiences, not to mention the fact the salesmen were selling land, hope and possibility at a time when the States was on the brink of a sales and loan crisis.

“So a lot of it feels very familiar to us with the more contemporary mortgage breakdown that happened,” she said.

Classic Chic is an all-female ensemble established in 2013, dedicated to providing opportunities for women to perform roles in which they traditionally wouldn’t have been cast. The ensemble seeks to mentor emerging female artists and strives to be mom-friendly, recognizing women often struggle to balance their artistic pursuits and families.

Speaking of women’s roles, Peake says the way the men in Glengarry Glen Ross talk about women is illuminating.

“The way that women fit into their society becomes clearer when it’s a woman saying it,” she said.

Glengarry Glen Ross starts at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees at 326 West Fifth Ave. Tickets are $25 at ticketstonight.ca.

@Cheryl_Rossi

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