On the Great Mametian Way
By Isa Goldberg
In a misfired story of power and the power brokers who wield it, a major block of New York City real estate, 45th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue, is for a moment at least, overrun by perpetrators of Mamet speak. A strange brew now occupies the block. There’s a murderer and her prison guard in David Mamet’s new work, "The Anarchist," and just next door, a crew of ruthless real estate brokers inhabit the revival of his classic, "Glengarry Glen Ross."
Fortunately, "The Anarchist," with its cast of otherwise sparkling actors, Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, departs quickly – closing on December 16th, and leaving the critics as the landlords of Broadway. Not a word of praise has the production received, nor should it have.
But the characters in Mametland, be it "The Anarchist" or "Glengarry Glen Ross," brandish similar weapons. Be they repentant anarchists or disheartened real estate brokers, their repartee consists of wordy rationales combined with pseudo philosophical asides. And both plays cross the border into the craggy terrain where man’s inhumanity to man reigns supreme.
In "Glengarry Glen Ross" Al Pacino portrays an ageing salesman, a Willie Loman of sorts, whose exalted and exaggerated claims only disclose the rack and ruin of a man whose world is diminished, tossed aside for a newer more successful breed. A bloviating Pacino portrays Shelley Levine in what is an audience pleasing performance. Still, the pain that Pacino radiates in the role threatens to erupt like a volcano.
As his counterpart, the young successful Richie Roma, Bobby Cannavale renders a character so totally lacking in feeling that one would like to throw a dead horse head into his bed. He has the role down with such finality that his Roma appears in the end like a plastic Don, more prototype than character. Meanwhile, over lunch in a dingy Chinese restaurant, Roma buddies up to a nearby diner, making him an offer he can’t refuse. Seduced by his suave shenanigans, James Lingk, a characteristically diffident Jeremy Shamos, succumbs to the sales pitch that will ultimately bring down this troupe of sleazy realtors.
The production comes with a well-rounded ensemble. John C. McGinley brings lots of angry fire to his role as a losing salesman while Richard Schiff plays a very convincing down-on-his-luck bloke named George, a soar and creaky pawn in an all too obviously dirty game. But the real Shylock, the sales manager, John Williamson (David Harbour), comes across as a spineless backboard; nothing anyone says matters to him.
Eugene Lee’s banal Chinese restaurant and ramshackle of an office are understated, tacky backdrops fit for the shysters and victims who inhabit them. But Daniel Sullivan’s direction, realistic as it is, leads to a sense of the surreal – the more than simply real behaviors of a gang of scam artists. Now in it’s second Broadway revival, "Glengarry" doesn’t quite hold up to the romance and ingenuity it once demonstrated. That, along with the high
price of failure (the short-lived "The Anarchist") makes one wonder if even the masterful Mamet is f-ing up his game.
"Glengarry Glen Ross" is playing at The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street. It is a strictly limited engagement. For tickets, call 212-239-6200, visit Telecharge.com or go to the box office.
Photos: Scott Landis
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