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Selling is Life, An Art that Can’t be Imitated: Cast Reflections on Preparing for “Glengarry Glen Ross”

Sneak Peek by Kenneth Stern of Glengarry Glen Ross: Incline Theatre

How does an actor prepare for his role when the story is despairing and everyone in the cast is wrung out, stuck, and success lies in being brutal and a con? Glengarry Glen Ross, playing at the Incline Theatre through April 24th, is a play full of desperation. If success is out there, it is slippery and not certain to be held onto for long. Greg Procaccino, director for this final production of the inaugural year District Series, knew that this—any—David Mamet play offers “unrelenting language.” In a conversation after the preview performance, he reflected on the bleakness of the story and the cast’s preparation. Cast members chimed in with email responses to questions emailed to them.

Procaccino appreciated the cast’s preparation ahead of the start of rehearsals, saying they came in already off-book, that they were prepared from the start. David Levy, who portrayed the “gentlest,” that is the most humane of the sales force, reflected “I found everything I needed to learn about George Aaranow in Mamet’s masterful script,” then shared the back story he created: “Aaranow’s own inability to successfully employ dishonesty as a sales tactic has led to drastically fewer sales for him and, subsequently, the grave certainty that his career is near an end. This, as far as he’s concerned, might as well mean that his life is near an end, too.”

Mike Dennis plays the tops salesman in the group, Ricky Roma, He readily relates to the hustling, commission dependent income in real estate. Dennis’s has been serving in restaurants for decades. For him, “I don’t live paycheck to paycheck, I live day to day. Depending on how much I make in tips each will decide what I eat the next day.” Dennis’s reflection fits his work and theatrical lives: “I can only eat what I kill.”

Joel Lind, as Shelly Levine, also found parallels in his day job. He is not in sales but has seen salesmen in action throughout his career, and reality and fiction coincide. Lind shared “I can recall hearing many times ‘We got the mother***er!’ ‘We closed the ***sucker.’ ‘We took their money!’ And once, I swear, a salesperson told me, before calling on a client to pitch a big piece of business: ‘You watch. We are gonna f*** em with their clothes on!’ Not only does art imitate life, but you can’t make this stuff up.

For Mike Hall, who plays office manager John Williamson, his character’s life is simple: Williamson ‘s “biggest fear is losing his job. He could not care less about whether his employees all make their quotas. What matters is that he stays employed.”

Then there is customer James Lingk, played by Scott Unes. Unes meditated on the world we all live in:

“My role model for this character -or at least, my inspiration- is anyone who ever got ripped off or swindled financially. Although I don’t feel like I’ve ever been part of a financial scam on the scale that Lingk is in this play, I think about the Bernie Madoff scandal, or Enron, or any situation where a corporation may be mistreating its employees by overworking and underpaying. . . . I think it is very sad how Roma takes advantage of all these vulnerabilities in order to make a buck. Even more sad is, these kinds of ripoffs happen all around us every day in this world. The elderly and the lonely are preyed upon, they are seen simply as dollar signs, their weaknesses to be exploited for whatever savings or assets they may have.”

The cast, and the director, know that the world they bring alive on stage is very much like the world they come from before they enter the dressing room. The actors, the roles they play, the audience that watches them perform Glengarry Glen Ross, share the vulnerabilities, and the fears, of being human. In that world—our world—some choose to be predators. Some of us become prey.

When you go see Glengarry Glen Ross see if you find yourself represented on stage.

Glengarry Glen Ross plays through April 24th at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. For tickets, call

513-241-6550 or click on http://www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com/Incline/Default.aspx.