Review: Glengarry Glen Ross

Arjun Sajip 9 May 2013

Glengarry Glen Ross

Corpus Playroom, Tues 7th- Sat 11th, 7pm

David Mamet’s masterpiece is one of the greatest plays of the late twentieth century, and yet it worked so brilliantly as a film in 1992. No wonder most of the cast members of this excellent ADC production of Glengarry Glen Ross seem to have taken much of their inspiration and ideas from the film’s stars, Al Pacino in particular.

It’s obvious when someone is talking like Pacino. Al Pacino sounds like Al Pacino. His mannerisms, his enunciations, sometimes crystal-clear, sometimes slurred lethargically, are his own, and the fact that most of the cast of this production incorporate these into their speech, consciously or not, hinders the originality of this particular staging. In some ways, you wouldn’t really lose out if you just saw the film: it’s better in almost every way.

This isn’t exactly a condemnation: comparing the Cantabrigians onstage at the ADC with the likes of Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey and Alan Arkin is a compliment in itself. The film featured an unforgettable scene with a ruthless sales executive (written specifically for Alec Baldwin and for the film version) that is sadly missing here; the cast and crew seem to have stuck as faithfully as possible to Mamet’s original stage vision, and pull it off admirably. The acting is stellar and varied, with near-perfect accents, and there are several aspects to this staging that are not in the film, the most important being the humour. Listening to the audience reactions, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a hilarious black comedy. Jack Mosedale’s winning performance as Aaronow (the meek shall inherit the Earth? Really?) had the audience guffawing at several points, while the Indian-looking guy next to me hooted loudly at the crudely risible cracks made at the expense of Indians – relatively controversial jokes that have been left out of some productions.

The set-design itself is unoriginal but simple and functional: the restaurant chaises, bathed in vaguely diabolical red light, suggest an aura of dark and shady intimacy, while the dry office-room set subtly enhances the action, giving plenty of room for the actors to pace about but not quite conveying the intense claustrophobia of the film version.

It is unfortunate that I feel unable to avoid comparisons with the film, but the play just isn’t staged originally enough to avoid it. It is formally, but not stylistically, different. Charlie Risius’s production is solid, competent, entertaining and hard-hitting, but the actors’ precedents are obvious, and perhaps inescapable, given that these precedents are practically definitive. The obviously talented Sam Lawson suffers most in this respect, stooping to derivative mimicry of Pacino in some lines, while Freddy Sawyer as Levene could perhaps be more wheedling and feeble.

If you want to find humour in the blackness, and if you want the visceral experience of people ripping each other apart ‘in 3D’, see this play: Mamet’s words were written for the stage. If you want a perfect vision of the bleak plight of the modern white-collar man, with career-best performances from the cream of American acting talent, check out James Foley’s movie. You won’t regret either choice. I’d plump for both.

Arjun Sajip