Twenty years ago, Al Pacino starred in the movie version of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” receiving an Oscar nomination for his performance as Ricky Roma, one of a group of shady real-estate agents whose directive from management is to “always be closing."
Pacino is back in Mamet-land this season in the new Broadway revival of “Glengarry,” which opened Saturday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. This time around, he is playing the role of Shelley Levene, the play’s senior shyster who wants to prove that he can still swim with the sharks.
“Glengarry,” directed by Daniel Sullivan, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for its unusually long preview period. The production was originally scheduled to open Nov. 11, but was delayed for nearly a month more. Producers blamed Superstorm Sandy.
The delay led to speculation that this “Glengarry” is in trouble, or at least has problems that still need working out. Bloomberg decided to break the critics’ embargo by running an early review of the production.
Mamet’s “The Anarchist,” a new play that opened earlier this month, has posted an early closing notice following tepid reviews.
The “Glengarry” ensemble cast includes Bobby Cannavale as Roma, as well as John C. McGinley, David Harbour, Richard Schiff, Jeremy Shamos and Murphy Guyer.
How have critics reacted to “Glengarry”? Considering that audiences have been paying as much as $377 for the best seats, will it make any difference?
Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the “production isn’t a train wreck” but that it fails to live up to the hype. “Pacino’s performance seems like a rough draft, as though he’s testing out ideas, daring himself to be bolder, trying to figure out a way to make it new.”
Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote that this production feels like a “strange combination of comic shtick and existential weariness” that moves slowly enough “to keep you aware, at all times, of the hollowness of its characters’ talk.” Pacino is less than impressive, delivering his lines “in a fretful, rambling singsong voice that sometimes gets stuck on a word like a phonograph needle."
The Associated Press’ Mark Kennedy found more to like, writing that “Sullivan and his first-rate cast plumb the play for its humor, so often lost amid the darkness and paranoia others have chosen to tease out.” Pacino “is Pacino,” but Cannavale is “first-rate.”
David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter wrote that the production “never quite catches fire,” and that the play has been “twisted from an ensemble piece into a platform for Al Pacino.” While Pacino is a mixed blessing for the play, “Cannavale’s dynamic work as motor-mouth Ricky sizzles.”
Variety’s Marilyn Stasio described Cannavale as “dream casting for Ricky. Hair all slicked back and strutting around in the flash suits and loud shirts designed by Jess Goldstein, he blows through Mamet’s brilliantly filthy language like a gale force wind.” But overall, the production lacks a “consistent acting style.”