By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Bobby Cannavale could sell me anything—even some worthless land in Florida called Glengarry Glen Ross, even this less-than-sizzling Broadway revival of David Mamet's iconic play called Glengarry Glen Ross. That the play is about real estate makes this an obvious candidate for relevant revival, given what's on the national mind; that it stars showboating Al Pacino makes this too much of a star turn in a drama that requires ensemble work.
Glengarry Glen Ross is about a group of backstabbing men who see everybody as sucker to hustle—even each other--in an ongoing crusade to prove, daily, their masculinity in this "world of men." Ricky Roma (Bobby Cannavale), a slick talker with slicked-back hair, is the office's alpha male. Williamson (the excellent David Harbour) is the office manager, who here seems more beleaguered than repulsive; he is written off by the men who work in the field as "whitebread," both despised and feared, and his "Go to lunch" scene is a famous opportunity for a virtuosic performance. Shelly "the Machine" Levine (Al Pacino) is a throwback who has lost his touch and is panicked for money. Moss (John C. McGinley) is the nastiest of the bunch, while Aronow (Richard Schiff in a deeply moving performance) is the most decent and—not coincidentally—the most clueless. The sucker du jour is James Lingk (Jeremy Shamos).
Pacino gets Levine perfectly— the haggard face, the itchy scalp, the dingy clothes. He's using a high, hollow voice which suits the man but, unhappily, doesn't project to the rear of the house very well. The characters are all pretty much defined by what they wear (costumes designed by Jess Goldstein), from flashy for Ricky Roma to brown/nondescript for George Aranow. And, like the overall tone, the set (Eugene Lee) seems tame—not seedy enough to start with and not wrecked enough after the robbery.
When I've seen other productions of this play, the atmosphere has always been thrillingly vicious (somebody called these guys "jackals in jackets") as though their disgust with the world and their bitterness has overwhelmed all decency. Here, though, under Daniel Sullivan's direction, the dominant mood is a combination of exasperation and desperation; everybody is always slamming folders and briefcases down on the desk or the floor, pathetically buttonholing each other to brag about their exploits. Times have changed, not only since the "old days" when Levine thought he was a star salesman, but since 1983 when the play takes place. This "world of men" seems not kinder, just weaker.