“There’s a musicality to the language of sales,” says playwright Bill Jepsen, whose new play Cadillac is currently receiving its world premiere from Chicago Dramatists. And Jepsen knows what he’s talking about, having spent six years in the used car sales business.
“In America, there’s a stereotype about salespeople and used car salespeople in particular,” says Jepsen, alluding to the usually negative portrayal of people in that profession as little more than con artists. However, his central character, Howard Austin, lives by an admirable moral and ethical code, and truly believes that he is helping his customers and providing good service — until the sale of a Cadillac on the last selling day of the month challenges his sense of ethics. “There’s lots at stake for this one sale for three or four different people,” says Jepsen. “And this higher morality that Howard talks about gets put to the test when his own butt is on the line.”
Since his play is set in a sales environment, Jepsen is braced for comparisons to David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. “It’s unfortunate that there’s probably only two popular plays about salespeople in American history,” he jokes. “But Cadillac has got a much different voice and story, and I think stands on its own.”