Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Al Pacino as Shelly Levene on Broadway
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. David Mamet. Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Broadway. New York City. Directed by Daniel Sullivan.

When Al Pacino appeared in the film version of David Mamet's play in 1992, he played the role of hot shot Ricky Roma. Twenty years later he's now playing the role of Shelly Levene [played by Jack Lemmon in the movie] in this new Broadway production of the play. Although it won a Pulitzer Prize, the somewhat old-fashioned Glengarry [taking its cue from previous plays and films about competitive salesmen and the like] is basically a play that sinks or swims on its acting. The film succeeded mostly because of a stellar cast giving their all. Shelly, afraid he may be washed up in the real estate business, is desperate for "leads" [the names of prospective buyers] even as younger Ricky Roma (Bobby Cannavale) is sewing up a deal that will put him on top in the office. The next day it develops that all of the leads have been stolen, and there's more than one suspect in the robbery.

Much of the audience I saw this with reacted to every utterance of "mother fucker" and the like with roaring laughter as if they were clever punchlines in a sitcom. People close to the stage may have felt like they were in a private party with the actors and felt they had to laugh at every obscenity. The language isn't the problem, but that much of the play's characterizations and observations are over-familiar and superficial. It probably goes without saying that anyone expecting a theatrical masterpiece like Death of a Salesman or Long Day's Journey Into Night had better look elsewhere. [I admit that I am not a big Mamet admirer.] The movie was relatively cinematic and therefore faster- paced, but the play -- especially the two scenes comprising the first act -- here seems very slow.

Pacino and the other actors [including David Harbour,  John C. McGinley,  Richard Schiff, Jeremy Shamos, and Murphy Guyer] all give good, even very good, performances. Pacino has a problem in that despite the added years he's playing a role that was much better suited to Jack Lemmon [comparisons may be odious, but Lemmon was better], but he has gotten more than respectable reviews, and his basic talent and that certain mesmerizing quality he has, almost always carries him through, as it has done here.

So, is this worth the exorbitant ticket prices this is getting on the strength of Pacino's name? It's not even worth what you'll pay for the mezzanine.

Verdict: Fine actors; mediocre vehicle. Rent the movie instead. **1/2.

No comments: