I don’t really like David Mamet. Don’t get me wrong, I like him more than I like Pinter, but still, he’s not my cup of playwright tea. (I don’t really like any tea!). But I went to see the new London production of his eminent work “Glengarry Glen Ross” because Christian Slater was in it. I mean also because I like to see all the theatre but mainly because Christian Slater was in it and I thought if I got to meet him then I could be friends with Cher Horowitz in both of their primes. Also he’s a good actor. I am familiar with the movie, and I don’t love it but I understand that it’s important and worthy of others’ adoration. I was skeptical of how such an American play would do with British audiences, but fun fact, “Glengarry Glen Ross” (GGGR) had its world premiere in London! Who knew! (Another fun fact, Mamet dedicated the play to Pinter, because he helped make that OG production happen. What a small world of playwrights I don’t enjoy!)
The play opens with two characters sitting in a Chinese restaurant. The whole first act (an incredibly short 35 minutes, I mean what) takes place in the Chinese restaurant, which really made me want fried tofu but I’m not sure if that was the intention. First we see poor sad sack Shelley Levine (Jack Lemmon in the movie, who really can’t be beat he was the best) begging the office manager John Williamson for better leads (the Glengarry leads) so he can actually make a good sale. He’s older than the other salesmen and past his prime and you do feel a bit bad for him. Williamson, on the other hand, is cold and unfeeling but as played by Kris Marshall, kind of bland instead. You’ll know Kris as the British idiot who went to America to find girls in “Love Actually” and sang ditties about his knob and somehow managed to find hot girls because of his accent. That accent is missing here as he tries to do an American accent, which is fine, but it seemed like all his focus was on the accent instead of acting so he was very stiff and wooden.
The focus on keeping up their fake American accents was apparent with the rest of the British cast too. Scene two of the Chinese restaurant duos featured Dave Moss, the brash and aggressive jerk who plans to rob the office of its best leads and sell them to a competitor. He tries to convince George Aaronow, the least memorable character in this production, to join him, and threatens to incriminate him if he doesn’t. Playing George, Don Warrington was fine but I don’t know if the accent was tripping him up or if he just wasn’t good with stuttered interjections. His character has a lot of repeated words like ‘I – I – I’ that get interrupted, but it was clear he was waiting to be interrupted and that threw everything off kilter a little. It always bothers me when actors don’t have more planned in case their costars wait a half second too long to interrupt. You gotta keep going or else it’s so obvious that the timing is off. I remember in “Once Upon a Mattress”, which we did in middle school and it was horrible because you need more sophisticated actors to make that show not terrible, there’s a line the princess says: “But that’s my huckle—“ and then the queen or something interrupts her. Okay people, it’s clear she’s going to say huckleberry so just make like you’re going to say huckleberry and let her actually interrupt you. Don’t say huckle and then let there be open air. You get what I’m saying. Don didn’t have his berry ready.
So all of this was kind of boring and hard to get into because most of the characters sucked so far, but then in Scene 3, Christian finally shows up, as Ricky Roma, and it’s the first (maybe only?) truly enjoyable, spirited bit of the play. Everyone perked up not just because he’s more electrifying to watch, but because his character is much more fun. An ass, but fun. He’s talking in the restaurant booth to maybe a good friend – you assume from the conversation – and he’s just going on and on about his life and women and sex and it’s kind of wacky but entertaining, and then after this monologue he pauses, and asks his companion what his name is. It’s the one great laugh in the show and it really effectively establishes Roma’s character. Great scene, Mamet.
In Act two, we lose the Chinese restaurant for their burgled office, all grey and mediocre with crap and papers everywhere. A cop is there questioning everyone separately. This whole act mainly just featured a lot of yelling and cursing and I wasn’t really invested. Then our only likable character, Roma, proves that he is also a terrible lying liar when his new client from the night before comes by and says he has to cancel the deal, he can’t afford it. Roma tells him that his check hasn’t been sent to the bank yet so there is still time for him to think it over. But then the office manager comes out and says stiffly and woodenly that the check was deposited at the bank. He was misreading the conversation, but I hang on to the very improbably hope that maybe he was trying to help this poor sad sack cancel it with the authorities before the allotted time ran out and he lost all his money, so maybe there would be one decent person in this office, or at least one person who does one decent thing. Roma, clearly a dick, is so pissed that Williamson ruined his deal and, ya know, saved that poor man’s life with his accidental reveal, and you’re just like, dude, you are doing fine, you’re the best salesman in the office and pretty soon you will only have to share the business with one other guy, chill the f and realize how much of a dick you are to be mad that that guy won’t become destitute because of your lies!
This is the point at which I was checked out. Bunch of dicks on that stage trying to keep demonstrating how dickish they are or something? I understand that it’s like such an honest look at desperation in the middle class and men feeling bad about their small penii but I am so done with white male stories. I think we’ve passed this kind of thing as a society. At least I have. The acting, aside from the accent focus, was fine, and if you like the play and/or the movie it’s worth seeing. While it’s a decent play I guess, that is decently performed, it’s not very compelling, and I’ll admit that this is one case where the movie is just better. Also, I can’t help but think how much better it would be to have new exciting diverse stories being told in this theatre.
The lobby at the Playhouse is the worst and you will be crammed in like sardines waiting for the house to open. I had to stand in front of a mirror and then I forgot and someone was looking in it and I was like DUDE what are you doing and she was like what, it’s a mirror.
I’m not going to talk specifics about what happened with our super awful audience, but I will implore you, everyone, to stop using your phone in the theatre. Even just to peek at. At the movie theatre too. Any dark space with other people, turn off your f-ing phone. There is no valid reason to use it in the theatre. Truly, there isn’t. I dare you to think of one. Please, by all means, comment below with anything you think is a valid reason and I will tell you why it’s not. If you are a doctor on call, you shouldn’t be at the theatre. If you have little kids and you don’t trust whoever is watching them, you should not be at the theatre and you should never leave children with people you don’t trust to take care of them I mean wtf is wrong with humans are we worth saving??
This was THE BEST stage door experience ever. Every actor came out very quickly, like within minutes, and signed and took pictures if requested. It was so efficient and quick and lovely.