As someone deeply passionate about the silver screen, most people assume I’ve seen every film ever made. While I’m confident that I’ve seen a far greater number and variety of films then my average contemporary, the 1992 adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross is not one of them. So going to a production of the play this past Saturday meant that I was able to view the story of the sordid dealings of a Chicago real estate office with fresh, un-tainted eyes.

Over the past two years that I’ve covered plays at The Segal Center  I’ve always been thoroughly impressed with the set design, and this time was no different. In a play your actors live in the limited environments you create for them, and it’s made me realize that set design is one of the crucial elements to a successful production. For mastering this I tip my proverbial hat first to the set and costume designer Michael Eagan.  In the first act we meet all the characters in a Chinese restaurant, designed in this beautiful deep red. Then the second act plays out in the cold, broken, over head lighting of the real estate office where the characters work. Even the chaos of the vandalized office was put together perfectly.

Having watched Road to Avonlea  as a child, I was most excited to hear that R.H Thomson would be in this production. His character Shelly Levene is supposed to be a once successful salesman who’s now down on his luck and desperate for good leads. Thomson made his Shelley more manic then pathetic and the profanity laced Chicago accent felt a little forced at times. Thomson was good, but I felt he was trying a little too hard to be great.

I was also a bit disappointed in MikePaterson’s performance. Perhaps I’m bias because I know how good he is at comedy and selling the audience on his loud, exuberant personality. So in contrast seeing Paterson as the timid client George Aaronow was a bit of a let down. I’d be curious to read what others thought of his performance.

For me the stand out performance of the night came from Graham Cuthbertson. As office manager Jon Williamson he was engaging without being showy, which I think is an impressive feat in a play; it’s tempting to be as over the top as possible on stage. The program says that Cuthbertson is a staple of Segal Center productions, so I’m excited to attend future productions that he’s involved with.

My final tip of the hat goes to the great man David Mamet himself. This production of Glengarry Glen Ross is not perfect, but absolutely worth seeing for an evening of professional actors reciting this amazing dialogue. Who could of thought that watching a group of alpha-males scream phrases like “You’re a cunt!” at each other for two hours could be so darn entertaining.

Glengarry Glen Ross runs until March 30th at the Segal Center. Get your tickets here.

Photo by Andree Lanthier.

Yiddish A Tale of Survival

There was once a time when the languages you heard in the streets of Montreal were English, French, and yes… Yiddish. In the early 1920s, Yiddish-speaking Jews from Europe immigrated to Montreal and were a large part of our diverse cultural landscape.

Early Jewish and Yiddish settlers opened the first Bagel shops, Smoked Meat dinners, and founded Yiddish theatres. In a new documentary, Abigail Hirsch looks at Yiddish theatre in Montreal, New York, and even Israel.

YiddishIn Yiddish: a tale of survival, the history of Yiddish is revealed by exploring the lives and careers of three Yiddish performers. The first, Shmuel Atzmon, an Israeli actor who founded the Yiddishpiel Theater and has been acting for 50 years. Bryna Wasserman, from Montreal, is the heir to the Dora Wasserman Yiddish theatre legacy. And lastly, we meet singer and actress Milena Kartowski, who at the young age of 23 has discovered Yiddish and is helping to bring it to a new generation.

The film explores the paths that brought each artist to Yiddish and how it has shaped their lives. The film is deeply moving and surprisingly entertaining. Watching it, one hears the sounds of the almost forgotten language of Yiddish from the echoes of Sholem Aleichem to the young people’s YaYa group performance, Raisins and Almonds. We are reminded of the legacy Montreal’s Jewish community and Yiddish culture worldwide.

Watch for the film in select theatres this summer. For more information, check out AskAbigailProductions.com.

Yiddish: A Tale of Survival _ Trailer from AskAbigail productions on Vimeo.