Is there anything really to say about Glengarry Glen Ross that could possibly come as news? David Mamet’s play about the cutthroat business of real estate salesmanship is such a well-established benchmark that some of its language has created idiom. The only real question is whether the director has served the piece and the actors keyed into its rhythm (“It is your job to help us. Not to fuck us up”). And of course, it’s such a clear-cut testosterone-fest that it’s hard to go wrong if you collect a bunch of guys who are sufficiently hip. With Daniel Sullivan as director and a cast comprised of David Harbour, John C. McGinley, Richard Schiff, Bobby Cannavale, Jeremy Shamos and Murphy Guyer, the hipness is far more than sufficient.
The only odd note—not a bad one, not even a less hip one, but an odd one—is struck by above-the-title star Al Pacino in the nominal lead role of Shelly Levene, the older-middle aged veteran who used to be a power player but after a bum streak of several years is desperate to get “back on the board.” The draw to the casting of course is that in the film version, it was Pacino who played the role Cannavale now plays—that of slick, ruthless Richard Roma. A role for which he was entirely suited. But in the film, Shelly was Jack Lemon. And before Jack Lemmon there had been, on Broadway, Robert Prosky and Vincent Gardenia. Something about them seemed naturally weathered, as if in their prime they had been sleek and charming. Pacino brings to bear the shabbiness of desperation in a business without compassion, but you never see the guy who was once on top, almost as if to draw upon that well would be to evoke the shadow of his own Ricky Roma. (To be fair, Shelly Levene is a role that requires a careful balance; for after the film, there was on Broadway Alan Alda. Alda’s natural persona is one that emits sharp, articulate intelligence, and while Shelly thrives on a certain animal cunning, he's also reckless, tunnel-visioned and crude, qualities that Alda could not exhibit without a sense of manufacture. Pacino, at least, doesn’t seem to be workin’ it; what’s up there is real enough. Though I have to add, it is a stretch thinking of Pacino as a guy named Levene.)
But still…if you have the guys, you have the goods.
And Glengarry Glen Ross remains a sale-closing sit.
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