Jordan Pettle on the Cutthroat World of 'Glengarry'

Published: May 12th 2010
in Culture » Stage

William Webster and Jordan Pettle in "Glengarry Glen Ross"
Pic: Cylla von Tiedemann
Jordan Pettle and Eric Peterson in in Glengarry "Glen Ross:
Pic: Cylla von Tiedemann

As the young, upstart office manager John Williamson in Soulpepper’s remount of Glengarry Glen Ross, Jordan Pettle plays one of the most loathed characters in the play. Not that that’s saying much in the world of Glengarry. All six characters are “always deceiving each other,” says Pettle. “They’re manipulative, they’re cheats, they’re crooks.” And Pettle is enjoying every second of it. “I love this play,” he says. “David Mamet is one of my favourite playwrights, and I love the writing. It’s a fantastic cast and it’s got a director I admire a lot. It was kind of in the way the perfect circumstance, the perfect time, and the perfect setting to do this play.”


As the youngest in the cast, Pettle is also enjoying the chance to work with some of the actors he grew up watching – and admiring – on Toronto stages. “I saw Albert [Schultz], I saw Pete Donaldson, I saw Eric Peterson, I saw them all when I was younger,” he said. “For a lot of my career I’ve been fortunate to do plays with actors I admire.”


According to Pettle, this is the kind of play that requires “really fine ensemble acting. It brings out the best in actors.” Written by David Mamet in 1982, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross tells the story of a group of Chicago salesmen who will go to any lengths to sell undesirable real estate. “It’s incredibly funny,” says Pettle. “To see the extent they go to lie and manipulate, and how desperate they are, it creates some very funny scenes and some really funny dialogue. I think, unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth in the viciousness, the brutality. [Mamet] wrote this play in the ‘80s and we’ve just seen the kind of rampant corruption in the corporate world, and this is a microcosm of that world in a way.”


This role is a far cry from Pettle’s last: the meek, troubled Orthodox Jewish brother of the groom in Julie Tepperman’s Yichud, which enjoyed a successful run at Theatre Passe Muraille in February. “I’ve been cast in a lot of Jewish parts,” he says. “There are a lot of Jewish playwrights whose work I admire and connect with.”


This includes his brother, actor and playwright Adam Pettle, whose play Zadie’s Shoes will be remounted at the Factory Theatre in 2011 and co-directed by the two brothers. Pettle also starred as the main character when Mirvish picked it up after the play’s original run at the Factory in 2000. “It’s inspired by a family story about my great-great-grandfather losing his shoes in a poker game,” he says. “It’s about gambling addiction and what that does to a relationship.”


Next up for Pettle, after Glengarry finishes its run in June, is an experimental Austrian play called Ritter, Dene, Voss, which he will be performing Off-Broadway with his wife in the fall. And as for the rest of his career? Pettle is drawn to anything with complexity, depth, and interesting writing. “I want to feel like I was doing great work,” he says. “There are moments, there are performances I’ve given that I’ve thought have been the kind of work I aspire to. I want to take a few risks and try things I’ve never tried before and keep pushing myself. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of doing stuff that you know works, you know? So I want to keep pushing myself into the uncomfortable places, the uncharted waters.”


Glengarry Glen Ross runs until June 5 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit

Related articles: (stage, Jordan Pettle, Adam Pettle, Glengarry Glen Ross, Soulpepper)

Share with friends Print this page Read later Recommend 1 times