Pacino’s Big Sale

by Louise, Director of Operations

There seems to be a new trend of Hollywood stars taking Broadway by storm with uber-depressing plays about regular joes struggling to support their families. First Philip Seymour Hoffman was the star of Spring 2012, inspiring many a visitor and local alike to fork over $500 a ticket or more to witness his expert portrayal of Willy Loman’s life of quiet desperation in Death of a Salesman. Now, this fall, Al Pacino takes the stage in Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet’s story of real estate salesmen driven to the edge by their struggles to succeed.

Although neither of these works is new – Salesman was written in 1949 and Glengarry in 1984 – the themes and stories are certainly timeless. Good men will always face difficult situations and will always make questionable decisions, especially when thinking of their families. And in both of these plays, that is exactly what happens. What I will say, however, is that to my mind, Glengarry Glen Ross is much more fun to watch, and the cast of the new Broadway revival is impeccable. I may have left the theater feeling a bit blue, but I spent the majority of the preceding 105 minutes laughing and clapping for Mamet’s dark humor and the cast’s mind-blowing performances.

The first act of Glengarry Glen Ross is a series of vignettes, set in a Chinese restaurant. Two by two, you are introduced to the six central characters of the story: four real estate salesmen, their office manager, and one unlucky client. You become acquainted with their struggles, their dreams, their strengths and weaknesses, and most of all, their character flaws. While each vignette is funny, engaging, and pretty darn awkward (I mean that as a compliment), the real intent of the first act is to set the stage for act two, when all these men come together in an explosion of alternating aggression, camaraderie, spirited take-downs, and venomous verbal exchanges, culminating in a shocking reveal that will (start preparing now) make you pretty heartsick. Despite the fact that not one character in Glengarry is particularly sympathetic, you still may find yourself rooting for all of them – after all, who among us is perfect?

Obviously, the star of this show is Al Pacino as Shelly Levine. From the very first line he has you believing that he is a pathetic, past-his-prime, probably-never-very-good-in-the-first-place salesman, desperate to make a comeback and not willing to accept that it won’t happen. He is fidgety and awkward and never once stops scratching his head. I was feeling terrible for him deep down in my soul, until I remembered that in real life he is Al Pacino. Bobby Cannavale is another stand-out in the cast. As Ricky Roma, top salesman in the office, he is sleazy and shifty and brimming with confidence and bravado, but ultimately pretty pathetic anyway (after all, there is not much to be said for being the best player on a losing team).  I also quite liked the performance given by David Harbour in the role of office manager John Williamson. His character spends a lot of time NOT talking (doing it pretty loudly, though), but then he owns some of the most unforgettable moments in the second act.

Without a doubt, every member of the cast embraces their role with enthusiasm and they all do an amazing job. Pacino will certainly receive most of the accolades, but he is not the only reason to check out Glengarry Glen Ross if you get the chance. The limited run ends on January 20th, and seats are already hard to come by, so if you’d like to plan a trip to see the show this winter e-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com to get started.

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