May 4, 2005

Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway

Last night I saw the new production of Glengarry Glen Ross at the Royale Theatre on Broadway. We went with a small group from the office and had a nice dinner at Carmine’s before going to the play. Before I talk about the play let me make it clear that I absolutely love Glengarry! My first exposure to Glengarry, and David Mamet for that matter, was from the 1992 James Foley movie version of the play. The first time I saw this movie was an amazing experience. It was similar to watching The Godfather, or Apocalypse Now. I was amazed by Mamet. I was amazed by the acting. The movie contains what I seriously believe is one of the most amazing casts ever put together for a movie. Jack Lemmon. Al Pacino. Ed Harris. Kevin Spacey. Alec Baldwin. Alan Arkin. The cast is explosive, committed to the movie. It’s stunning to watch.

I had noticed Glengarry being done in play form once before in San Francisco but I never got an opportunity to see it. When I heard there was a new production on Broadway I was determined not to miss it again. So last night, as I sat in amazing seats right up front and saw the curtain come up on Alan Alda playing Shelley The Machine” Levine I was ready to be amazed.

Now, with anything that you have really dissected and know so well you run a risk with seeing it another form. It may be great, but it’s going to be different no matter what. Certainly Alan Alda is going to do Levine different than Jack Lemmon. Alda did a great job though. The character was different, but still showed the desperation that is so defining of this character. Additionally the Alec Baldwin’s character that is so well known from the movie is not in the original play and as a result, not in this production.

The play was great all in all, but I left a bit puzzled. Glengarry is an extremely dark, black comedy. Most people that read the screenplay or watch the movie would find it very dramatic and even depressing. In fact many that I know don’t even like the movie because of the intensity of it — the dialogue is cutting and crass. When Moss is verbally attacking Ricky Roma in the 2nd act there is a venom in the dialog that is pure Mamet. It’s a scene that leaves you gripping your chair and wanting to shy away. But in the play there were moments of snickering. The entire play was riddled with more laughs than I would have ever expected to come from a production of Glengarry. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just a different thing. It was a very different experience than I expected to have.

It was a great time and Glengarry will continue to be one of my favorite movies of all time. The cast was amazing. It was a real treat to see such a wonderful play with the original cast on Broadway. Mamet will continue to be one of my favorite playwrights and authors. He does dialog like John Woo does gunfights, jaw dropping.


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