David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross achieved prominence on the release of the 1992 film version of the Pulitzer Prize winning script, but can the revival of the original play, now at The Playhouse Theatre, evoke the same plaudits? Those hoping to see Alec Baldwin’s character will be disappointed, for that role was written in specifically for him, what remains though, is the profanity laden, and testosterone fueled story of greed and corruption.
Directed by Sam Yates, Glengarry Glen Ross centres on a group of Chicago estate agents who are pulling every trick in the book to close property deals on two estates; Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross. The premium leads are everything, and are given only to the top salesmen, meaning the less successful agents remain bottom of the list.
With their pride, and a Cadillac at stake, the group resort to all kinds of underhand behaviour to obtain the leads and close the deals. When the office is broken in to, and the leads stolen, the characters are exposed for what they are, and the extent of criminality is laid bare.
Set in the 1980’s, Glengarry Glen Ross now feels like another world, the male dominance and openly racist language, which has been removed from other versions of the production, feel shocking. The fact that it was written at the time it was set, allows you to see this not as a detriment, but as an accurate representation of the era.
Chiara Stephenson’s set design is gloriously intricate, the first act takes place in a Chinese restaurant and every detail has been accounted for, right down to the goldfish tank. It’s large and spacious, and you can imagine a group of diners arriving at any moment. The second act is even more detailed, with the burgled office strewn with papers and debris.
The only downside to such fabulous staging is that the interval lasts almost as long as the first act, which is itself relatively short, in order for the stage to be reset. Ultimately though, it’s a tradeoff worth making to achieve such realism in the look and feel.
A stellar cast have been lined up for this production, led by Christian Slater as Ricky Roma. Of course, he is a natural on stage and his performance is absorbing and completely believable. Kris Marshall, as office manager John, and Stanley Townsend as Shelly Levine also stand out for their impassioned performances.
There’s a great deal of interjecting dialogue in this play, it’s part of what makes it so funny, at times though, it can feel like the actor is waiting for the interruption to come, rather than it occurring naturally, as intended. The lines are delivered at fast pace, which keeps the audience hooked, and it’s undeniably funny, even if we sometimes feel we’re sniggering at things that are no longer acceptable to laugh at.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a timely revival of a legendary play, it is sure to attract a new legion of fans who have been drawn in by the appeal of the movie, and will enjoy the original version just as much, thanks to the beautiful direction of Sam Yates. The sharks mantra is ‘always be closing’, but the only crime here is that this limited run will close all too soon.