Pacino Is a Mannered Mess in Mamet’s ‘Glengarry’: Review

'Glengarry Glen Ross'
Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale in a Broadway revival of "Glengarry Glen Ross." The show is running at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Photographer: Scott Landis/Jeffrey Richards Assoc. via Bloomberg

The producers of “Glengarry Glen Ross” invited critics to see the revival this weekend, following a preview period of nearly two months in which the star, Al Pacino, fine-tuned his performance as Shelly “The Machine” Levene.

The show was considerably better a month ago. I can say this with some authority because I bought my own ticket and wrote about the revival on Nov. 13.

To ensure I had the same perspective, producer Jeffrey Richards was thoughtful enough to provide me with the same obstructed-view orchestra seat for which I’d earlier paid $167.75.

But enough about me. This revival of David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about Chicago real estate salesmen makes for a pretty enervating hour and forty-five minutes. That will surprise fans of Mamet’s blistering excoriation of business in what was hailed as the successor to Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”

I don’t think it’s the play’s fault: “Glengarry” not only became a successful film (starring Pacino in a different role) but had a terrific Broadway revival starring Alan Alda seven years ago.

Shelly opens the play begging his new boss for the prime “leads” that will offer the best chance to close deals on the sale of Florida land of dubious investment potential. He’s fast aging out and has been on a losing streak. The boss is more eager to serve the young gun Ricky Roma (the aptly unctuous Bobby Cannavale).

How these desperate, amoral men con, insult and backstab each other and their colleagues forms the gist of the play. They speak in staccato outbursts and a profusion of obscenities.

Last month I wrote that “the alchemy that makes violent poetry of these speeches is missing from Sullivan’s production. Much of ‘Glengarry’ sounds stilted and self-conscious.” That much is still true.

Worse still is that four weeks later, the heat seems to have almost entirely escaped from this balloon of a play, and it’s barely aloft. Pacino’s performance in particular has all but disappeared into mannerisms -- whispered speeches that suddenly turn explosive, a preening, cocky walk, the fingers constantly combing through his thatch of hair.

Richard Schiff, as a salesman with some semblance of a conscience, and Jeremy Shamos as one of their pigeons, remain exceptions to the pallidness that otherwise sinks the enterprise.

Through Jan. 20, 2013, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; Rating: *1/2

What the Stars Mean:

*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Good
**     So-So
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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