Friday, November 27, 2015


By Toby Zinman



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.


Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St., NYC. $72-162 Information: 212-239-6200  Through Jan. 20.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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