Glengarry Glen Ross

It's a treat to revisit the best American play ever written about merciless men and their predatory business practices.

Shelly Levene - Al Pacino
John Williamson - David Harbour
Dave Moss - John C. McGinley
George Aaronow - Richard Schiff
Richard Roma - Bobby Cannavale
James Lingk - Jeremy Shamos
Baylen - Murphy Guyer

Al Pacino may be pulling them in for David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning ode to American con artistry, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but the guy who’s blowing them away is Bobby Cannavale, a live wire in the role played by Pacino in the 1992 film version. Show’s hefty $377 tab for prime ducats and the long-delayed opening provided much grist for the gossip mill. But despite production flaws, in this post-Recession era of mortgage foreclosures and crooked real estate deals, it’s a treat to revisit the best American play ever written about merciless men and their predatory business practices.

The play’s two pivotal characters are Shelly Levene (Pacino), the washed-up and desperate agent who was at one time the sparkplug in his Chicago real-estate firm, and Richard Roma (Cannavale), the current cock of the walk, trained by Shelly and still loyal to his old mentor.

The outfit they work for sells worthless shares in Florida real-estate properties to unwary marks. (Eugene Lee’s shabby 1980s office set conveys the soulless nature of the place.) The business is sleazy enough, but the sadistic owners have turned it into a blood sport by dangling cash bonuses and Cadillac cars at their ruthlessly competitive salesmen.

Popular on Variety

The charismatic Ricky has made it to the top of the board (winning himself the most promising leads on the suckers list) by lying, cheating, bullying, and shrewdly reading the minds of the clients he dazzles with his magnetic personality. Watching his seduction of one of these innocent rubes (played by Jeremy Shamos with the pathos of a little lamb being prepared for chops) is to observe a master psychologist at work.

Cannavale is dream casting for Ricky. Hair all slicked back and strutting around in the flash suits and loud shirts designed by Jess Goldstein, he blows through Mamet’s brilliantly filthy language like a gale force wind. It’s a big performance from a powerhouse performer, and when he turns in a rage on John Williamson, the beleaguered office manager played with amazing control by David Harbour, it’s also a scary one.

Pacino is a more restless performer, drawing on his nervous energy to prowl the stage as Shelly, as if he were leading the hard-luck salesman in panicky flight from the frantic thoughts buzzing in his brain. Given the constant anxiety Pacino projects, it’s electrifying when he stops spinning and actually sits down, allowing Shelly a quiet moment to absorb a devastating piece of bad news. Collapsing into the folds of his shiny black suit, thesp turns his haggard face to the audience and gives us a look that makes us believe in the existence of hell.

It’s an entirely valid interpretation of the character, but it doesn’t much serve the tight ensemble format of the play as Mamet designed it, and it complicates helmer Daniel Sullivan’s uneven efforts to impose a consistent acting style on his production.

Individually, not one of the well-picked performers can be faulted. John C. McGinley is wonderfully vile as Dave Moss, the resentful salesman who gets apoplectic when he thinks of how far behind he’s fallen in the race for sales, and Richard Schiff is pathetic, in an absurdly funny way, as the downtrodden victim of Moss’s scheme to stage a robbery and steal those precious leads.

But even these high-powered salesmen fail to make this sale.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Gerald Schoenfeld Theater; 1071 seats; $377 top

Production: A presentation by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, JAM Theatricals, Luigi & Rose Caiola, Gutterman Chernoff, Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Amy & Phil Mickelson, Patty Baker, Mark S. Golub & David S. Golub, Ken Greiner, Meg Herman, Kathleen K. Johnson, Stephanie P. McClelland, Harvey Weinstein, James Fuld Jr. / Kirmser Ponturo Fund, Kit Seidel / Myla Lerner, Will Trice, and GFour Productions, in association with RP Media Company, of a play in two acts by David Mamet. Directed by Daniel Sullivan.

Creative: Sets, Eugene Lee; Costumes, Jess Goldstein; lighting, James F. Ingalls; production stage manager, Stephen M. Kaus. Opened Dec. 8. 2012. Reviewed Dec. 5. Running time: ONE HOUR, 40 MIN.

Cast: Shelly Levene - Al Pacino
John Williamson - David Harbour
Dave Moss - John C. McGinley
George Aaronow - Richard Schiff
Richard Roma - Bobby Cannavale
James Lingk - Jeremy Shamos
Baylen - Murphy Guyer

More Legit

  • Grand Horizons review

    'Grand Horizons': Theater Review

    Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one, as you surely must have: A nice, all-American family is in the process of breaking up and trying to make this sad state of affairs seem funny in Bess Wohl’s Broadway outing “Grand Horizons.” After 50 years of marriage, Nancy (the ever-elegant Jane Alexander) and Bill (the [...]

  • Uncle Vanya review

    'Uncle Vanya': Theater Review

    Director Ian Rickson has had success with Chekhov in the past. His exquisitely balanced, tragicomic production of “The Seagull” (2007 in London, 2008 on Broadway) was well-nigh flawless with, among others, Kristin Scott Thomas as painfully vulnerable as she was startlingly funny. Sadly, with his production of “Uncle Vanya,” despite felicities in the casting, lightning [...]

  • The Welkin review

    'The Welkin': Theater Review

    A life hanging perilously in the balance of charged-up, polarized opinions: This courtroom drama could easily have been titled “Twelve Angry Women.” But playwright Lucy Kirkwood (“Chimerica,” “The Children”) is far too strong and imaginative a writer for so hand-me-down a cliché. Instead she opts for “The Welkin,” an old English term for the vault [...]

  • Tina Fey attends the "Mean Girls"

    Tina Fey Announces Movie Adaptation of Broadway's 'Mean Girls' Musical

    It’s good to be mean…the “Mean Girls” musical, that is. Producers of the hit Broadway show announced today that the Tony-nominated production is being adapted for the big screen for Paramount Pictures. The musical is based on the 2004 movie of the same name. “I’m very excited to bring ‘Mean Girls’ back to the big screen,’ Tina Fey, [...]

  • Freestyle Love Supreme

    Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and 'Freestyle Love Supreme' in Exclusive Clip From Sundance Documentary

    Before turning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” into musical phenomenons, Lin-Manuel Miranda could have been found on stage, spouting off-the-cuff rhymes with his improv group, “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After performing across the globe, the troupe — founded 15 years ago by Miranda, his frequent collaborator Thomas Kail and emcee Anthony Veneziale — made its Broadway [...]

  • Ariana Grande 7 Rings

    Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Having a Moment Thanks to Ariana Grande, 'Oklahoma!'

    Jaws dropped when it was revealed that the late musical theater titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were granted 90% of the songwriting royalties on “7 Rings,” Ariana Grande’s 2019 No. 1 hit. The dominant motif of Grande’s song is taken from “My Favorite Things,” the cornerstone of R&H’s 1959 musical “The Sound of [...]

  • A Soldiers Play review

    'A Soldier's Play': Theater Review

    Now, that’s what I call a play! Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play,” now being revived on Broadway by Roundabout Theatre Company, packs plenty of dramatic tension into smoldering issues of racial justice and injustice, military honor and dishonor, and the solemn struggle to balance their harrowing demands on characters who are only [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content