Christian Slater stars in a powerful revival of David Mamet's classic
Is the #metoo era really the best time to mount a major revival of play about a group of testosterone-raddled male real estate agents being unbearably blokey?
Well kind of, maybe. US playwright David Mamet has devoted much of his recent career to being a grade-A douchebag (his most recent wheeze was threatening to fine theatres who held post-show discussions after his plays). But it’s easy to forget how good he used to be. ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’, from 1983, remains his most famous play, and deservedly so: it’s a startlingly short, painfully sharp, excavation of the desperation that lies under the alpha male ego.
The first half is the set up, three rapid vignettes set in the same Chicago Chinese restaurant. In the opener, veteran salesman Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levene (Stanley Townsend) is using every ounce of charm he has to try and persuade impassive office apparatchik John (Kris Marshall, impressively unlovable) to give him some hot leads. In the second, cantankerous old hand Dave (Robert Glenister) tries to recruit fellow old-timer George (Don Warrington) to help him break into the office. And in the third, hotshot Ricky Roma (big star Christian Slater, back in the West End after a decade off) launches into a long aspirational monologue to the meek chap sat next to him – which turns out to be a ruthlessly honed sales pitch.
Lasting just 35 minutes and chased by an interval and dramatic set change, the first half almost functions as a prequel to the carnage of the second. Set the next day, the men are reeling from the aftermath of an office break in. It is all self-interest rather than concern: Slater’s Roma is a masterclass in toxic masculinity, his face shifting from smarmy detachment to a searing death stare that practically flays John’s skin from his bones. Veteran Irish actor Townsend is excellent at conveying Shelley’s desperate emotional rollercoaster ride – we root for him, kind of, and he has a light, likeable touch next to the cranky balls of testosterone around him. But there are flashes of nastiness, and he leaves us with the sense that this man has hollowed himself out utterly in the ephemeral pursuit of sales.
It’s not so much a tragedy as a clinical dissection of little men who lie to make themselves feel bigger. Mamet neither feels sorry for them nor celebrates them – this is simply how they are. If Yates’s hard, terse production doesn’t exactly go out of its way to hit us over the head with modern parallels, it hardly needs to: America is run by a liar; a series of male celebrities are suddenly telling us they ‘need help’ after decades of alleged abuses that never seemed to trouble them before. The play does not date.
A warning to die hard fans of the film: Alec Baldwin’s famously sweary ‘always be closing’ speech was added for the 1992 movie and has never been part of the play, which is now semi-notorious for disappointing audiences expecting to hear it. Lo and behold, the chap sat next to us expressed his dismay as it its omission as we filed out – one more disappointed middle-aged man in this study in their pathology.
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I knew nothing about the show before attending, only that Christian Slater was in it. However, the night I booked for he was not performing due to the Golden Globes. So I should start by saying I can not comment on his performance. The show is a short number, with one intermission. The first half was set all in a bar where different sales team reps slack each other off, complain about work and other crass topics. At half time we did consider leaving but upon hearing how short act two was we decided to stay, and actually act 2 is a lot stronger then the first. Over all I did enjoy it, the actors were strong in delivering their characters, but I would ask yourself 'how interested in sales, business, work team interaction am I, before going. I work in a sales team and I think this is where my enjoyment came from. I am told (although havn't seen it) that the film is better.
"one more disappointed middle-aged man in this study in their pathology."
What the hell is this review? I think this review indicates far more "middle-age man pathology" than what some random fan of the film said on his way out of the theatre.
Oh dear, very underpowered production which really only serves to remind one that the film is actually better than the play with additional dialogue and a stellar turn by Alec Baldwin. Christian Slater is OK at best but really he's here doing a rather poor Al Pacino impression. Kris Marshall is way out of his depth, in a production that will struggle to find an audience
As a huge fan of the film, I was fully aware of what the story was about. I noticed that this play misses parts of the beginning of the film and most importantly it completely omits Alec Baldwin's "ABC" scene - which might hurt a little bit if you were looking forward to see it. Christian Slater was brilliant as Roma. It's a short one (about 30 minutes for each act) but I would recommend going to see it!