Opened: Broadway Original March 25, 1984; 2012 Revival- November 11, 2012
Glengarry Glen Ross Director: Original- Gregory Mosher; 2012 Revival- Daniel Sullivan
Glengarry Glen Ross Book By: David Mamet
Broadway Theatre: Original, John Golden Theatre; 2012 Revival- Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
Tony Award Nominations: Original- 4;
Tony Awards Won: Original- 1
Notes: The original play won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
David Mamet is one of the most recognized names in American drama today. The play Glengarry Glen Ross was a significant milestone in achieving that status. Mamet drew inspiration for the play from a breif period in the late 1960s when he worked in a real estate office. That experience poured out into an ensemble play about four desperate real estate salesmen who are faced with losing their jobs and the lengths to which they'd go to keep them.
Shelley "The Machine" Levene is down on his luck, an aging salesman whose best days are behind him. He hasn't closed a big sale in a while. The owners of his real estate office added a new twist to the monthly sales contest: whoever comes in last is fired. He offers to bribe the office manager, John Williamson, for some of the "Glengarry" leads, the most promising sales leads the company has. Levene can't pay Williamson's price and goes away empty handed.
Once Levene departs, the scene shifts, and two other agents talk of robbing the same leads then selling them to a competing firm. Finally, act one closes with the agency's slick star, Ricky Roma, skillfully making a sale.
The next day the agents return to find the office has been robbed and a police detective interviewing suspects. Levene is pleased as he made a big sale, and proceeds to help Roma, whose client from the previous night showed up unexpectedly with second thoughts. Williamson inadvertently ruins a ruse concocted by Roma and Levine to save the deal, costing Roma the sale. In the ensuing argument, the facts about who actually robbed the office come out, leading to the culprit's downfall.
The original production of Glengarry Glen Ross premiered at London's National Theatre in September of 1983. Acclaimed by critics for the strength of the ensemble cast, it won the 1983 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. The play moved to Broadway the next year, opening in March 1984 after previews in Chicago. Running for 378 shows, the Broadway production wasn't a huge money-maker at the time. It received critical praise, though lost the 1984 Best Play Tony to The Real Thing.
The 1992 film based on the play brought more recognition. The screenplay, also written by Mamet, expanded on a number of scenes from the play. It famously includes the character "Blake", played by Alec Baldwin, delivering an opening monologue that outlined in very clear detail what would happen to the worst performers. Those attending theatrical productions of Glengarry may be disappointed they aren't informed that "Coffee's for closers..."
Perhaps to address the oversight in 1984, the Tonys recognized a 2005 production of Glengarry Glen Ross with Best Revival of a Play. A 2012 revival of Glengarry borrowed Al Pacino from the film. While Pacino played the hotshot salesman Roma in 1992, he took over the role of the withering Shelley Levene for the stage.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a powerful drama that's earned accolades over numerous productions since 1983. It's a can't miss theater experience for fans of character driven drama.