Glengarry Glen Ross!
I love this movie. It’s a landslide of astonishing performances, a harrowing dissection of frailty and anxiety. Where to begin? Jack Lemmon makes us wince at Shelley Levine’s ghastly desperation, Al Pacino’s Ricky Roma is both cruel and seductive, and then there is the force of fucking nature that is Alec Baldwin. This is gonna be awesome!
Oh... wait. It’s a play?
I’m kidding, obviously. I know it’s a play, and I know Mamet’s whole schtick, with the rhythmic dialogue and the tortured masculinity and all that. Still, heading over to the Rep for last night’s Stranger recommendation, I was acutely aware that I have only seen Glengarry onscreen. Would I be able to forget about the movie and judge the production on its own merits?
Furthermore, everyone I know who is even vaguely aware of Seattle’s theater scene instantly recognizes names like John Aylward and R. Hamilton Wright. What if I hate it? Can I trash it knowing the venerated local thespians involved?
I needed backup, somebody who could be brutally honest in assessing the play’s worthiness. So I brought my friend Darren. I don’t particularly like live theater, as I’ve said before, but Darren despises it. If the Rep’s Glengarry could impress him, it could impress anybody.
Right off, I had problems. The interplay between Aylward’s Levine and MJ Sieber’s John Williamson, as well as the other characters that are introduced during the Chinese restaurant intro, were vastly different from my film-derived templates.
There were other issues. The actors go with a very broad physicality, kicking chairs and boxes around the stage as their cheap suits ride up into their ass cracks, and we found ourselves—along with the rest of the audience—reacting like we were watching a comedy. Maybe that’s Mamet’s original intention, I don’t know. But while my recollection of the film involved a few rueful chuckles, I mostly recall the terrible empathy of watching damaged, lost men twist in the capricious winds of capitalism. Is that funny? I’m not sure.
Once we’d digested it however, Darren and I both found a lot to like. The sets by Eugene Lee are gorgeous, full of period detail and nuance (I particularly liked the clamshell telephone in the restaurant). The acting is often superb; I loved what Charles Leggett did with Dave Moss, so much so that I prefer his interpretation to Ed Harris’s. Aylward is also terrific, and Roma’s climactic brutal take-down of Williamson as performed by Wright and Sieber is at least as good as Pacino and Spacey. But there I go again.
This is a great production, and you should see it immediately. I enjoyed myself. But my first inclination when I got home was to throw in the DVD, so I could enjoy the “real” version. Does that make me a rube? Probably.