Review: Glengarry Glen Ross

© Scott Landis

Ah, the benefits of diminished expectations. Since it began previews in October, the Broadway revival of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glen Ross has been the target of negative buzz--primarily over Al Pacino’s unfocused performance--which only got louder when the production delayed its opening for a month, supposedly because of Hurricane Sandy. Well, the show has finally been deemed ready to be seen by critics, and it’s a pleasure to report that it’s fully up to snuff.


That the production is housed in a theater just a few yards away from the soon-to-be shuttered The Anarchist, Mamet’s most recent, critically reviled effort, ironically serves as a reminder that this superb dramatist seems to have lost his way in recent years.


The 1983 play, last seen on Broadway as recently as seven years ago, holds up marvelously well in its depiction of American capitalism as its most cutthroat. Set in a sleazy Chicago real estate office, it depicts the savage machinations among a motley group of rapacious salesman desperately competing with each other to get to the top of the sales tote board and receive the Cadillac that goes with it. Or at least, not lose their jobs.


Chief among them is the fast-talking Ricky Roma (a superb, perfectly cast Bobby Cannavale), who in an early scene is seen delivering a slick sales pitch in a Chinese restaurant to a hapless potential customer (Jeremy Shamos), like a jungle predator circling its prey.


The veteran member of the tribe is the aging Shelly “The Machine” Levine (Pacino), who desperately tries to procure invaluable leads from the stand-offish office manager (David Harbour) by blatantly offering him kickbacks.


The plot is set in motion when salesman Dave Moss (John C. McGinley) attempts to persuade his whiny colleague George (Richard Schiff) to break into the office and steal the all-important leads, which they will then sell to the competition. Act Two concerns the aftermath of the robbery, with an officious detective (Murphy Guyer) hauling them into an office one-by-one for interrogation.


Filled with Mamet’s trademark hilariously pungent and profane dialogue, the play is a marvel of concision and character illumination, especially in its handling of the alternately pathetic and boasting Levine. As played with hangdog pathos and expert comic timing by Pacino, the character is a haunting reminder of the fragility of success.


Director Daniel Sullivan has assembled an expert ensemble for his crackling production, with every actor embodying his role with a fully lived-in authenticity. Eugene Lee’s sets and Jess Goldstein’s costumes are equally spot-on for this revival which has been unfairly maligned as a mere star vehicle for Pacino. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, either.

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St. 212-239-6200. Through Jan. 20.