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Photograph: Joan Marcus

Is Al Pacino doing the new David Mamet play on Broadway really "better than oral sex"?

By David Cote
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Stoking the hype machine for his next Broadway outing, master playwright David Mamet describes his upcoming China Doll thusly: "[It's] a play about a wealthy man, his young fiancé, and an airplane. The man has just bought a new plane as a wedding present for the girl. He intends to go into semiretirement, and enjoy himself. He's in the process of leaving his office, and is giving last minute instructions to his young assistant…The characters are Mickey Ross, a billionaire; Carson, the assistant, and a telephone. I wrote it for Al. It is better than oral sex."

Further details are hard to come by; the show starts previews in October 2015 at a Shubert theatre to be announced. Director Pam MacKinnon (this fall's A Delicate Balance) is at the helm. But Mamet's invocation of mouth lovin' is not random, old-man prurience. Orality is at the center of his theatrical world; his characters live or die by their verbal wits, how well they dominate the room with language games. The vocal arsenal in Mametworld is varied: corruscating serial insults; rat-a-tat post-screwball patter, to be delivered with metronomic precision; improbable eloquence alternating with gutter obscenity; and jazzy harangues on morality, justice and truth.

And few actors know how to tear into that language like Al Pacino. The actor's history with Mamet stretches back more than 30 years, to his performance as Teach in American Buffalo on Broadway in 1983, followed by the 1992 movie of Glengarry Glen Ross, in which he played motor-mouthed Ricky Roma. Pacino returned to the drama on Broadway in 2012, this time playing broken-down salesman Shelly "the Machine" Levene. We are very much looking forward to the re-teaming of Pacino and Mamet (and a new piece from Mamet, after 2012's lamentable The Anarchist). For a taste of Pacino in his prime doing Mamet in his prime, we submit this Glengarry clip.

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