Glengarry Glen Ross – A Broadway Review

This afternoon, Katie and I went to a matinee of the new version of David Mamet’s *Glengarry Glen Ross*. We sat in the Orchestra section. This review contains no spoilers.

For those not familiar with the Pultizer winning play, I’ll quote the [official site](’s synopsis:

> GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is a riveting account of the competing personalities in a seedy Chicago real estate office, where it’s business as usual until a high-stakes sales contest takes a shocking turn. Welcome to the fast and furious world of American entrepreneurship, where lying, cheating and stealing are all in a day’s work… and where the salesman will stop at nothing to close a deal.

It was made into a [popular movie]( in 1992 with an amazing ensemble cast: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce, and Jude Ciccolella. The play includes all of these parts save Alec Baldwin’s. The three most notable cast members for the stage version are Alan Alda (playing Jack Lemmon’s character of Shelley Levene), Liev Schreiber (playing Pacino’s firey Ricky Roma), and Jeffrey Tambor (picking up Alan Arkin’s George Aaronow).

Over the past 6 years or so – I saw the movie first when I was in college, long after its release – I’ve grown a huge appreciation for the movie, with its classic roles, relentless dialog, and tense pacing. I had high hopes for the stage version, and it mostly met my expectations. I apologize in advance about what follows, as all my thoughts on the play largely revolve around comparisons to the film. A point by point breakdown in no particular order:

**+ Liev Schreiber and Jeffrey Tambor were excellent.**

I never got much of a handle on the character of George in the movie – I had always considered him the weakest of the bunch in the movie. But Tambor poured a hell of a lot into the character, giving him a real personality that was unique to the play, even despite what would seem like similarities in manner to Shelley. I was a big fan of Jeffrey coming into this from his work on *Arrested Development*, and this only cemented it further.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Liev Schreiber; I had my doubts at first at his ability to fill in the shoes of a character I have such a strong connotation with Al Pacino for, but he did it admirably. I’ve previously only seen Liev in *The Manchurian Candidate*, and my impression of him coming in was favorable – his take on the role was unique and powerful in its own way.

**= Alan Alda and Gordon Clapp were decent.**

I should preface this by saying I’ve never seen the play before today, only the film, and so perhaps Alda nailed the part – but compared to the Shelley Levine character I’ve known, it felt like Alda was forcing it a bit, rambling a bit too much and just going too broad. He didn’t ruin the play by any stretch – his acting was still good – but I just felt he was too overzealous at times. Perhaps it was because he was laying the accent on too thick.

Gordon Clapp, taking up Ed Harris’ role of Dave Moss, was great in his interactions with Jeffrey Tambor but lacked the punch needed when facing off against Liev. Not bad, just not great.

(Ironically, both of these men, along with Liev, are the ones nominated for Tony’s. I’m pulling for Liev.)

**- Fred Weller and Tom Wopat were forgettable.**

Fred Weller, picking up Kevin Spacey’s role, spent a lot of his time on stage not saying anything, and his body language didn’t convey anything. Spacey had a real edge in the role, and Mr. Weller was just lacking it.

Tom “Luke Duke” Wopat was showing the wrong sort of desperation as James Lingk; while Jonathan Pryce had nailed down a man who is backed into a corner by everyone he deals with, Wopat came across as wishy washy and didn’t leave much of an impression on me by the end of the play.

**+ The set design was amazing.**

If you go to see this play after reading my review, you may sit through Act I wondering what the hell I was thinking. But the second Act II starts, there is an audible gasp in the audience when you see the set. It’s one of the most detailed, functional sets I’ve seen yet, and it’s mighty impressive. I find myself crossing my fingers for Santo Loquasto – he deserves the set design Tony.

**= The first act was sort of blah.**

This is Mamet’s fault, not anyone in this cast; the structure of the first act requires too much piecing bits together through snippets of dialog, too much trying to connect people through disjoint scenes, and a real lack of flow. Luckily, it’s different enough from the film where people who have seen the movie aren’t going to be bored out of their skulls.

**+ The second act was electric.**

This also falls on Mamet’s shoulders, thankfully. There are no breaks in the second act, and it all flows beautifully. At the intermission, I was wondering if the play was worth seeing – the second act sealed the deal completely.

**? It’s very weird to be in the audience.**

The movie doesn’t come across as funny at all, just suspenseful and tense. While the play certainly has some intentional humor written into it, there were lots of instances where there’d be laughter just at swearing or cuts at other actors. The audience was also predominantly old, presumably because they all wanted to see Alan Alda. Not a good or bad thing, just strange.


In conclusion: The cast is above average and works well together, and while the first act is a little weak, the second act is more than worth the cost of admission. I recommend catching this in matinee whether you’ve seen the movie a thousand times or not seen it at all.

Glengarry Glen Ross runs through August 28th at the Royale Theatre on West 45th St.