New York City Theater
"Glengarry Glen Ross"
Royale Theatre, Manhattan
David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” is once again back on Broadway. And it’s back, hard-hitting as ever, with its superb cast and dynamic director Joe Mantello.
The story deals with four salesmen who are hawking shady real estate properties. These men are losers all, but they view success as closing the deal and amassing as many deals as possible. The top salesmen are placed on “the board” and given the best “leads,” and the very top man awarded a Cadillac. The men do not hesitate to cheat, lie, steal, do whatever is necessary to make the sale.
Hence, Mamet’s commentary on our society and the values which drive it—in this case, the greed, desperation, and emptiness which prevail. At the same time, “Glengarry” takes on the form of male bonding, as so many Mamet plays do, with testosterone levels running high. There are dinners out at the nearby Chinese restaurant and exchanges of obscenities which are used as often in comradeship as in battle. (It has been remarked that the “f” word appears almost 200 times in this memorable piece. But Mamet’s use of obscenities, which offend many theatergoers, is most appropriate to these characers whom he depicts.)
As to the cast, every one is top-notch. Alan Alda turns in a moving performance as Shelly “the Machine” Levene, an over-the-hill salesman trying desperately to make a comeback. Yet one cannot forget that it is Alda, who somehow remains Alda whatever role he plays. Liev Schreiber, on the other hand, is the very character he takes on—the smug, arrogant Richard Roma. This magnificent young actor, one of the best on the American stage today, thoroughly inhabits each role he plays. This time around, whether he tosses his head, clips his speech, adjusts his cuff links, he is the embodiment of Rich Roma, top man on the board.
But Mantello has all his ducks in a row—and all the supporting players—Frederick Weller, Gordon Clapp, Jeffrey Tambor, Tom Wopat, and Jordon Lage are on target. Mantello has them handling the distinctive Mamet dialogue, with its cut-off, interrupted speechesso skillfully that it becomes a veritable symphony.
In all, a first-class interpretation of Mamet, a memorable evening at the theater.
-- Irene Backalenick
May 4, 2005