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Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale in Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
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Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale in Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

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Al Pacino
Bobby Cannavale
David Harbour, Richard Schiff
Glengarry Glen Ross
(Glengarry Glen Ross Website)

By David Mamet
Directed by Daniel Sullivan

John C. McGinley, Jeremy Shamos, Murphy Guyer

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street

Scenic Design: Eugene Lee
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls
Casting: Telsey + Company/Will Cantler, CSA
Technical Supervisor: Hudson Theatrical Productions
Press: Irene Gandy/Alana Karpoff
Production Stage Manager: Stephen M. Kaus
General Manager: Richards/Climan, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 5, 2012 Matinee

The trouble with seeing a great play in revival is in the immediate need to compare lead characters with their previous stars. When there was also a great film version the comparison becomes acutely complex. Watching Al Pacino crouch and crumble as Shelley Levene in Mamet’s masterpiece, Glengarry Glen Ross, there was no likeness to the previous Shelley Levenes. Levene is a has-been salesman in a 1980’s, lowdown North Chicago real estate office. Levene needs money for his daughter, he hints, to John Williamson (David Harbour), the office manager. Williamson hands out the leads, and, in a seedy restaurant, Levene bribes his boss to take money for good leads, just to “get back on the board”. That chalkboard was invented by the owners of the firm to award a new car to the highest grossing salesman, while steak knives, or such, are the next best gift. Levene recalls the old times, but he laments the phony, dried up leads he’s getting, leaving him of empty pockets. Williamson strikes a greedy bargain, smelling desperation. No sympathy or even a break is thrown Levene’s way.

Pacino plays his role with a unique take, far from the more nuanced 2005 production’s Alan Alda, and far from the emotionally bleeding Jack Lemmon in the 1992 film. Pacino, rather, does a master class in acting, facing the audience almost throughout, adopting a Chicago Jewish browbeaten accent, figuratively crawling for money. His entire physique and persona are pleading for luck, for the magical fortune cookie that’s wrapped around one good lead. He finally gets that lead, but signed by what Williamson later calls losers, an elderly couple that just likes to talk to salesmen. What they’re selling are worthless and imaginary plots of land that would never amount to a fraction of the investment. Levene’s chief partner in crime is Richard Roma (Bobby Cannavale), who’s on top of the board for his smoking smooth charisma, his instinct for the scam. Cannavale plays the role with spitfire sizzle, and, in another comparison, with a street sense that differed from Liev Schreiber’s 2005 stage version of Roma as cold steel, also different from Pacino’s own film version of the Roma role. Cannavale is gripping and magnetizing, like a panther eyeing the jugular.

John C. McGinley and Richard Schiff are Dave Moss and George Aaronow, whose dialogue about robbing Williamson’s top leads and making it look like an outside job, are well type cast, with Moss the shrewd salesman, selling Aaronow, he thinks, on taking all the risk. Jeremy Shamos as Lingk is a helpless pawn in Roma’s seasoned yarns about taking charge of one’s life in one late-life investment. In Act II, when Williamson accidentally opens his mouth, when he should have been silent, Cannavale loses that deal, leading Roma, then Levene to pummel their boss to psychic chalk dust. Only in a twist of words and unintended candor does Levene back himself into his own doomed destiny. Murphy Guyer is Baylen, the detective hovering nearby. Daniel Sullivan directs to leave his own characteristic mark on this production, as each staging should remain true to itself. In this matinee, Mr. Sullivan created a series of edifying takes on iconic Mamet roles. Eugene Lee’s flexible sets, morphing from dreary restaurant to disheveled office, drew me in. James F. Ingalls’ shadowy then stark lighting helped shift the mood from desire to despair. Kudos to David Mamet.

Al Pacino in David Mamet's
"Glengarry Glen Ross"
Courtesy of Scott Landis

Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale
in David Mamet's
"Glengarry Glen Ross"
Courtesy of Scott Landis

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at