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Glengarry Glen Ross Kindle Edition
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Most people are aware of this play because of the incredible 1992 movie version. One should be aware that the Alec Baldwin character from the movie does not appear in the play - Mamet wrote that part specifically for the movie. In one of the scenes, a salesman talks about how he hates to talk to Indians, because they never buy anything. After some criticism, Mamet took that out of a 2005 revival of the play.
These are terrible people. Outstanding play.
A few important differences are noted below.
* In the film, the end of Scene One, where Levine and Williamson take shelter in the car during a rainstorm, is very effective. The closed quarters highlight the desperation. In the play, their entire conversation takes place in the restaurant. Also, an early portion of the long conversation between Moss and Aaronow takes place in the coffee shop, while in the play, they are in the Chinese restaurant as well. Here, too, I think the settings in the film are better, as we see Aaronow being pursued from place to place. Glengarry Glen Ross shows us, after all, that it isn't only suckers who are targeted; the salesmen go after each other as well. [Note: one (ad-libbed?) improvement was Ed Harris' "The leads to Graff. Yes. I was saying--yeah. A guy could take--like anything else, it seams to me, that is negotiable, a guy could sell them."]
* Of course the absence of Alec Baldwin's character (named Blake, not that it is ever used in the film, other than in the credits) is notable. Mamet wrote in this role expressly for the film. Of somewhat less importance is the role of Larry Spannel which also does not appear in the original script.
* Act Two seems almost entirely identical, play vs. film. The most intriguing (and disturbing) difference seems to be with Roma's character at the very end. He becomes much less likable by attempting to cut in on Levine's commissions. Or is there something more to the story that I missed?
Fourteen bucks is a lot to pay for what is a very fast read, but then again I am not rating based on price, and in the end this is something you can enjoy frequently. I know I do.
(Winner of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama)
The characters make this play powerful. Shelly, in his 50s, has a great history as a salesman but struggles today. The play begins with him negotiating--almost begging--for a prime sales lead. Unfortunately the dog-eat-dog world that currently employes him has little or no appreciation for his current failures and past success. Meanwhile Shelly tries to pass off his current performance (or lack of) as a slump, a move that somewhat reminds me of Willy Loman making excuses. Though Willy Loman and the characters of this play live in the same American dream of manifest destiny, the similarities are limited. Starting with Shelly, the characters of Mamet's play seem to have a more vicious inward-looking and selfish perspective toward life. Their American dream seems shallow and selfish compared to Willy's.
We see this same selfishness in scene two where Moss and Aaronow discuss the opportunity to steal the best customer leads (lists of names) from their own office, sell them to a competitor, and then maybe go work for that competitor. Like Shelly, these two salesmen appear selfish as they first fantasize about the midnight adventure only to find that one of them is quite serious.
Next comes Roma, the apparently most successful salesman of this group who is in his 40s. Not seeing Roma until the third scene, we cannot help but wonder if he will one day end up with a merciless boss who doesn't care about past sucesses (just like Shelly and the others who are in their 50s)? Roma seems to articulate the most certain morality of the main characters. He initially appears most anchored, but toward the end he talks with a customer experiencing sales remorse and we are left to wonder about Roma as well.
The play's end is quite compelling. We are not surpised in one sense, giving the ethical code of this bunch. Yet, we are quite surprised to see who emerges "alpha male" inside this office. I cannot help feeling some compassion for these salesmen who manipulate, scheme, and appear to think little of anyone but themselves. It is an amazingly simple and powerful conclusion.
I read this play in a single evening. I could not put it down. The tensions Mamet creates are compelling and many. Not since Miller's "The Crucible" have I read such a powerful play. Though this is the first work I have read from Mamet, I think I can begin to see why his work is so highly regarded. I am only sorry that the play is short and does not require more than one evening to finish. I would have enjoyed spending more time with the text.